Be smart with donations this holiday season


There are hundreds of charities in the Houston area, but how do you know your money is going where it can do the most good?

Giving to a charity is a great way to give back to your community, but it can be a challenge figuring out if the money is being used the right way. That's why the Better Business Bureau is releasing its annual charity list.

Goodwill Industries of Houston hires workers who otherwise might never find a job.

Tim Jenkins is among those earning a pay check thanks to the organization

"It gives people jobs that can't get no jobs," Jenkins said.

More than 20 percent of Goodwill's donations come during the holidays.

It's just one charity that sees a spike this time of year.

Leah Napoliello with the Houston BBB said, "With a stagnant economy and the recent Hurricane Sandy disaster, people are in great need right now and donor are looking for charities to support."

Napoliello says before you give, make sure a charity is doing what it says it will do with your money.

The BBB has checked out more than 500 local charities for its annual charity list.

"The BBB standard is that the charity must spend at least 65 percent on their programs and the clients they serve," Napoliello said.

The good news: hundreds of Houston charities meet the BBB's standards for accountability.

"For a city that is arguably the most philanthropic in the world, very little fraud," Dan Parsons with the Houston BBB said. "That's a good thing."

Parsons says there are about two dozen charities that do not meet the group's voluntary standards and hundreds more that did not provide the agency with enough information to rate their effectiveness.

"We have some lack of disclosure and management issues, but in terms of the bad 'F' word -- 'fraudulent activity' -- it is really rather rare," Parsons said.

Keep in mind charities are not required to give the BBB any information. If you see one of your favorites on the "did not provide information" list, it does not mean they are doing anything wrong.

You can see the BBB charity list by going to their web site,

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