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For the 38th time in the past 40 years, charitable giving increased in 2018 from the previous year, according to Giving USA. Americans donated $427.71 billion — nearly $292 billion of which came from individual donors.

With the giving season in full swing, the District-based financial website WalletHub compared more than 100 of the most prominent U.S. charities based on their financial performance, transparency and popularity.

Researchers also identified the best organization to donate to for each of the most popular causes. For those who want to contribute to veterans’ services, researchers at WalletHub identified the Fisher House Foundation as the best organization for donors to contribute.

Researchers consider the Semper Fi Fund as the best organization to give donations or health, while was listed as the best for education.

Researchers said the Conservation Fund counts as the best for the environment, and Prevent Child Abuse America’s National Office is the recommendation for child-abuse prevention donations.

The group Action Against Hunger-USA is the best organization to donate funds to fight hunger, while Direct Relief is the choice for hurricane relief, according to researchers.

WalletHub experts also provided tips for choosing a charity, including finding a cause, asking for recommendations and conducting research.

The site’s experts also outlined tips for making a successful donation, including having a budget, deciding on itemized deductions, considering processing fees and earmarking funds for something specific.

“So very often, people give impulsively or possess a ‘shotgun’ approach to philanthropy,” said WalletHub expert Sidney James Nakhjavan, who serves as executive director of the Cary Center for the Advancement of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies and Women’s Philanthropy Board at Auburn University College of Human Sciences. “When donating to a charity, think long and hard about your personal goals and ask yourself if your vision for helping others aligns with the organization or charity you are considering.

“Further, ask how or if your gift will advance the mission, work and impact of the organization,” Nakhjavan said. “Giving strategically requires that donors have a very clear understanding of their personal values and goals, and then mindfully investing and supporting organizations whose goals are a good fit.”

There also are red flags to consider, said WalletHub expert Ram A. Cnaan, a professor and faculty director of the Goldring Reentry Initiative in the School of Social Policy & Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Aggressive phone solicitation, even for worthy causes, is the number one red flag,” Cnaan said. “I got a call from an organization I support. The person on the line introduced herself very professionally and asked for my donation. It was weird, as I just sent a check.

“So, I asked her, ‘Are you a volunteer?’ She said no. ‘Who are you working for?’ She named a company that seemed legit,” he said. “I then found out that the company charges a huge percentage of what they collect.”

Click here to view the full WalletHub report.

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Stacy M. Brown is a senior writer for The Washington Informer and the senior national correspondent for the Black Press of America. Stacy has more than 25 years of journalism experience and has authored...

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