Money Talks: 3 Things to Do Before You Give to Charity

Americans are well known for opening their hearts and wallets to those in need. Food for the Poor, for instance, feeds millions of people every year in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Angel Aloma, Food for the Poor, says, "Our mission is basically to find out the real needs of the 16 countries that we help from the missionaries who are actually dealing with the poor directly and try to fulfill those needs."

What you just heard is called a mission statement: a clear, concise definition of what a charity does. First thing you should know before you donate. But not the only thing.

Also super-important is how efficiently they're doing it: what percent of their income goes to administrative costs, and what percent goes to programs?

Aloma says, "At food for the poor, more than 96% of all donations inclusive of cash and goods in kind go directly to programs that help the poor."

And even if you're interviewing the CEO, don't take anyone's word for anything. Always do a check before writing one.

It's easy to do at any number of free web sites. Just log on, look em up and check em out. Or at least request information. Because all non-profits are not created equal.

Bottom line? Of course you want your money to work as hard for your charity as you worked for that money.

So decide what cause you want to get behind and get online and do a little investigating. I've got more tips and links to make it simple: they're right here at Money Talks