Money Talks News: Smartest Way to Donate to Charities

"We were young professionals who fell on hard times, just like many others across the country." "Jobs cutting hours, less salaries. It was getting to the point where we couldn't even pay rent for our own home anymore."

With no home and not enough work, Elisha and Raymond McAteer turned to this place for help. It's Life Net 4 Families.

"How's the food? Good? Alright!"

"It's about getting families back on their feet. So we take individuals, families. We do hot meals every day.We do showers. We do boxes of food for people that need that little extra at the end of the month. We have food stamp programs, crisis management."

Finding a charity whose mission is your passion: that's the first step in finding the right charity for you. But that's not the only step. Here are some other things you need to know:

First, do some research. Find the most efficient charity at accomplishing your goal, using services like charity navigator, the BBB, Guidestar or Charity Watch. Can't find financial info? Just ask.

"90% of every dollar raised goes back into the programs. So there's not much overhead and overhead expenses."

Next, avoid the middle-man. Always give directly to a charity if you can, not to some telephone solicitor.

They're taking a huge cut.

And finally, if it's possible, get involved yourself. Donate your time in addition to your money.

"You've got to give to give back."

Bottom line... when it comes to finding charities, don't even think of writing checks until you've done some checks. And get yourself involved. You're going to feel a lot better about what you're doing.

What you need now is a few more tips to make sure you've got the right charity. And I've got them waiting for you. They're right here at check and search for "charities."

For Money Talks News, I'm Stacy Johnson.