Giving Tuesday: 5 Great Charities To Donate To This #GivingTuesday Holiday

Midwest Food Bank
The Midwest Food Bank provides food to hungry people from Indiana to Georgia, and it has been helping to fill the nutrition gap for the past decade. Midwest Food Bank

Giving Tuesday is one of the newest holidays on the calendar, and it serves as the antidote to Black Friday by focusing on selflessly helping others, rather than selfishly stocking up on the newest gadgets and gifts.

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving has been dubbed Giving Tuesday, and it appears to be a popular movement. The #GivingTuesday hashtag has gone viral on Twitter and other social media forums as thousands of people report making donations to charities helping everyone from the victims of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines to America's homeless citizens.

Created as a way to encourage charitable giving and tied to the famous Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday holidays, Giving Tuesday is aimed at garnering donations to help the neediest among us as well as to fund organizations that depend on ordinary folks to help do their important good works.

Last year, the first for the holiday, was a great success according to organizers, who reported that about 2,600 charitable outfits saw donations via the burgeoning effort, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But deciding on a charity to donate to is one of the hardest parts of any philanthropy effort, as it can be very difficult to discern between a legitimate group that will use the money wisely and effectively and an organization that spends large parts of its funding on marketing, salaries and overhead.

Ken Burns, CEO of Charity Navigator -- an independent organization that evaluates and rates charitable organizations in order to help people figure out where to send their hard-earned dollars -- offers three pieces of advice about how to choose a charity in the helpful video below:

But if you'd rather skip the work and just be entirely sure you're giving to a reputable organization, here's a breakdown of five very different charities that people can trust to spend their donations to provide important services or benefits without taking advantage of the goodness of givers' hearts, and their willingness to open their wallets:

1. Globus Relief: The destruction of communities by Typhoon Haiyan's devastation in the Philippines is a travesty that will require millions of dollars to overcome, and Globus Relief is one of Charity Navigator's highest-rated organizations working to provide relief to the people who were hit hardest by the storm. Receiving a 69.95 rating out of 70 from Charity Navigator, Globus Relief spends a whopping 99.4 percent of its money on program expenses, meaning that nearly every cent you donate to the organization will actually go toward helping people on the ground. And according to the official Globus website, "Globus Relief has been involved in the Philippines for years and our infrastructure, network of local contacts and distribution methods will allow the supplies we send to actually reach the locations and families with the greatest need." As such, this may be one of the best options for people looking to make a difference in the Philippines. Click here to make a donation to Globus Relief.

2. Books For Africa: As a continent, Africa struggles from a number of deep-rooted problems, ranging from poverty to war to corruption. One of the best ways to help Africans empower themselves and work toward a better life is to provide them with better educations, especially in the area of literacy, which can be a gateway to greatness. Books For Africa has been working since 1988 to send millions of books to schools and libraries from Kenya to Namibia, spreading knowledge and building opportunities along the way. In just the past year, Books For Africa says it has "shipped 2.2 million books valued at $28.3 million to 22 African countries, with an additional 616 computers and 15 brand new law libraries." And with 99.2 percent of its money being spent on program expenses -- earning the program a 69.94 score out of 70 from Charity Navigator -- it is a reliable place for your donations to go. Click here to make a donation to Books For Africa.

3. Midwest Food Bank: Providing aid for foreign countries is an important endeavor, but the United States faces its own charitable needs as well. Hunger is one of the greatest problems facing America's least-fortunate, as 14.5 percent of American families "lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members" in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Addressing the hunger scourge requires dedicated organizations with ample funding, and the Midwest Food Bank is a shining example of such a group. Despite its name, the faith-based organization provides food to hungry people from Indiana to Georgia, and it has been helping to fill the nutrition gap for the past decade. Rather than giving food directly to families and individuals, the Midwest Food Bank acts at a higher level in the chain, "serving as a distribution center to smaller food banks and food pantries across the region." By contributing to this vital group, donors can ensure that their money is going to put food on people's tables, rather than stocking overflowing food pantries' shelves in less needy areas. And with a rank of 69.95 out of 70 with 99.3 percent of its funding going to program expenses, the food bank got the top position on Charity Navigator's list of "10 Top-Notch Charities." Click here to make a donation to the Midwest Food Bank.

4. Carnegie Institution for Science: Helping people in need is a noble pursuit, and perhaps the one that most people immediately think of when considering where they should direct their charitable contributions. But there are a number of other ways to provide assistance for good causes, and donating to organizations that support scientific or medical research is one such avenue. Charity Navigator has identified the Carnegie Institution for Science as one of the best places for people who want to see expanded scientific research in areas such as Earth, space and life sciences, and with a score of 69.02 out of 70, the institution has won 13 consecutive four-star ratings, the most of any charity the group monitors. Named for the great American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who founded in 1902, the institution operates six research departments on both coasts, which employ "leaders in the fields of plant biology, developmental biology, Earth and planetary sciences, astronomy and global ecology" who are dedicated to pursuing important research in these key fields. Click here to make a donation to the Carnegie Institution for Science.

5. American Endowment Foundation: For deep-pocketed donors who don't want the hassle or heartache of deciding where to direct their philanthropic contributions, there exist a number of donor-advised funds, vehicles administered by charities with the goal of managing donors' charitable giving. Though these funds are not as simple as charities that allow people to simply send checks or donate online via PayPal, they are a great way to ensure that donors' dollars are going to places that will make good use of them, while allowing donors to make changes to their giving packages as their needs and interests evolve over time. Perhaps the best of these excellent funds is the American Endowment Foundation, an independent, 20-year-old program that seeks to help philanthropists manage their donations via a transparent fund that is not impaired by affiliations with financial institutions, added fees or other typical pitfalls of donor-advised funds. With a stellar Charity Navigator score of 69.85 out of 70 and 12 straight four-star rankings by the organization, the AEF is a great choice for people looking to make lasting commitments to charitable giving. Click here for more information about the American Endowment Foundation's opportunities for charitable giving management.

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