Best Charities for Last Minute Giving

New YearLast year on December 31 I wrote a post about how to pick a charity to support if you wanted to make a year end gift. The post has been circulating on Twitter this week so I thought I’d publish a slightly updated version…

The majority of charitable giving is done between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. From stats I’ve seen from online giving portals, it seems that a big rush of online giving occurs in the last few days of the year. Readers of this blog know that I recommend donors spend time planning their giving, creating a written philanthropy plan and donating to organizations in which they have a high level of conviction.

But what if it is the last day of the year, you want to make a gift to charity and you aren’t sure where to give? Here’s a strategy that takes 5-10 minutes and will result in your donations accomplishing more good than the vast majority of charitable gifts.

In 5-10 minutes you can’t possibly learn enough about a charity to determine if it is any good (imagine buying a stock with 5-10 minutes of research!). But you can piggyback on the research being done by professionals. For free.

Your first resource is GiveWell’s top rated charities. GiveWell is a research team that works to identify charities whose programs actually work. Read the short profile of these thoroughly researched charities and pick one that interests you. The organizations range from ones providing immunizations in Africa to ones working on improving teacher quality in the US.

Don’t even have time for that? Just donate to one of GiveWell’s top rated charities by clicking on the links below.

A new option this year is choosing to support one of the pre-selected grantees from Venture Philanthropy Partners’ winning application to the Social Innovation Fund. With this approach you know you are supporting a nonprofit that has passed Venture Philanthropy Partners due diligence and that VPP has pass the due diligence of the federal government’s Social Innovation Fund, which included multiple reviews by outside experts.

VPP named these four nonprofits as their intended grantees for the Social Innovation Fund grant:

Another great resource is Philanthropedia. This group surveys nonprofit, foundation and academic experts to identify top charities. They currently rate nonprofits across 12 different issue areas. Don’t even have time for that? Philanthropedia has created charitable “mutual funds” where you can make a single gift to a cause area and they’ll split it up among the groups they recommend. Just click on the links below and select a top rate nonprofit or issue area “mutual fund” to support:

A fourth option is New Profit, Inc. New Profit is a national venture philanthropy fund that supports rapidly growing social entrepreneurial organizations. They too won a grant from the Social Innovation Fund. While their site is not designed to process donations, they do offer profiles of their current portfolio of charities they support. Once you find one you like, head over to Network for Good to make an online donation to the group.

Don’t even have time for that? Just make a donation to New Profit, Inc and they’ll use 100% of your gift to support their full portfolio of charities.

If you use this process, you can feel confidence that the organizations you are supporting are the same ones that experts would pick if they were in your shoes. But if you use this process to complete your charitable giving in just 5-10 minutes, do me a favor and make a New Year’s resolution to start earlier next year so you can make a simple written plan and find organizations you personally believe are doing great work.

Happy New Year!


  1. Pat Diamond says:

    While the majority of giving is from Thanksgiving to the end of the year, that doesn’t mean most giving is rushed or unplanned. Often individual and business contributors wait until the end of the year to see How Much they can afford to contribute. It doesn’t mean they haven’t already planned Who to contribute to. And it is more helpful to donate in December and get the tax write off in January, than to have donated in April (and have to wait until January for the write off.). But thank you for the article; it will be very helpful for situations when the Who part hasn’t been planned for.

    • That’s true Pat. It isn’t all rushed. But most giving comes from individuals and most people give out of their income, not assets (we know this because total giving is highly correlated with personal income, but not with net worth), so giving through out the year is just as practical as long as you’ve given it some thought.