Spring cleaning is here! And you’re starting to clear out the house of unwanted, unneeded junk. And you’d like to donate, rather than have your stuff wind up in a landfill. But where do you give your donations?

If you’ve been checking out charities to donate to, you’ve probably asked, “Is Salvation Army a good charity to give to?” They’re close, they’re convenient, and they seem like they’ve got to be a decent place. But how do you really know which charity is worth giving possessions or money to?

How to Tell a Legitimate Charity from a Fake

Whether it’s end-of-the-year giving or spring cleaning time, when you give, you want to make sure your gifts are being used as intended. Because of that, there are five main resources to check out for understanding the value and legitimacy of a charity. Unfortunately, there are a lot of scams out there, so it’s important to do your research.

The IRS Non-Profit Charities Database

This database, run by our nation’s own Internal Revenue Service, lets you check a charity’s tax exemption status. You simply plug in the name into the search bar, and it will bring up the answers.


Guidestar keeps information on the 990s of charities. This means you can read what the executives make, and what percentage of the donations go out to actual people in need.

Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator actually ranks the charities for you on three basic criteria:

1. Accountability

2. Financial health

3. Transparency

This database contains over 9,000 charities. This database is fairly easy to navigate, so it is highly recommended for checking things out.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance

With 20 standards, like governance and oversight, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance can help you determine which charities to give to. Each standard earns one point for the organization, and a score of anything lower than 20 means you probably should give elsewhere.

Charity Watch

This database has public articles, advice, and basic information. However, its members’ area gives access to deeper insights on charities. It also exposes any instances of abuse that it discovers within any charities.

Some of the Absolute Best Charities with a Christian Mission

You can go spend a few hours looking for charities now. Or, you can check out our list of the top charities to help you get started.

Samaritan’s Purse

Samaritan’s Purse has been around since 1981, and is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization that provides spiritual and physical aid to folks in need around the world. With programs like Operation Christmas Child and World Relief and Development, they do what they say. They’re rated as highly transparent with how they spend the donations, where they give, and what they do.

Lutheran World Relief

Not to be confused with Samaritan’s Purse World Relief Program, the Lutheran World Relief organization also seeks to provide physical assistance and aid to those in need around the world. They specifically work with Lutheran churches and groups, and use donations in times of disaster around the world.

Children’s Hunger Relief Fund

Working since 1975, Children’s Hunger Relief Fund has been assisting children in times of disaster, like earthquakes, famine, and hurricanes, and in everyday life. Their focus is holistic outreach through physical and spiritual assistance.

The Children’s Hunger Relief Fund brings medical and dental missions teams with them, and provides surgeries, AIDS prevention classes, and clean water projects around the world.

Advancing Native Missions

Advancing Native Missions has received platinum-level transparency status from Guidestar, as one of the most transparent charities around. Their primary work is enabling indigenous missionaries, rather than sending foreign missionaries, with training in practical and spiritual topics that help leaders assist their own people, in their own villages and towns.

The Salvation Army

And for those of you wondering specifically about The Salvation Army, they are rated silver on transparency and legitimacy. That ranks them fairly high in the standing of great charities that do what they say, and give where they state.

The Salvation Army has been around since 1978, and offers community programs throughout the world, ranging from local thrift stores to churches, and personal and leadership programs to help alleviate poverty, healthcare treatment and education programs, and relief and construction aid for those who are impoverished or victims of disaster.

Before You Give

Before you donate to any charity, check them out with one of the resources designed to help you determine the legitimacy of an organization. Guidestar, Charity Watch, Charity Navigator, the IRS Non-Profit Charities Database, and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance all provide a variety of cross-section views of organizations.

Make sure that the organizations give as they promise, but also make sure that they give the funds to the people and causes that matter to you. If you want to assist clean water projects, verify that the organization does that – not all health and relief organizations do.

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