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Updated February 18, 2009

Best ways to help during the economic crisisCharityWatch announces its top-rated charities currently offering services to the increased number of Americans suffering from hunger, mental illness, drug or alcohol abuse, homelessness, old age, or others who are in need of human services during this time of economic crisis. As the unemployment rate continues to rise and home foreclosures increase, it is more important than ever that those who are able lend a hand to their neighbors who need it.

CharityWatch, a leading charity watchdog that issues letter grade (A+ to F) ratings of nonprofit groups, identifies the following charities, which are providing aid to people suffering. These charities have received an “A” or “B” grade based on the portion of their budget going to program services and their fundraising efficiency.

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American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (A)

American Red Cross (A)

Bowery Residents' Committee (A)

CEDARS (Home for Children & Youth Services) (A)

Coalition for the Homeless (A-)

Food Bank for New York City (formerly Food for Survival) (A-)

Habitat for Humanity International - N.O. (B+)

MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger (A+)

Mental Health America (A-)

National Alliance to End Homelessness (A+)

National Council on Aging (A+)

Salvation Army - Central Territory (B+)

Salvation Army - Eastern Territory (A)

Salvation Army - Southern Territory (A-)

Salvation Army - Western Territory (A-)

The Y (formerly YMCA of the United States) - N.O. (A)

Give generously, but wiselyThese charities perform favorably in relation to CharityWatch benchmarks:

1) They generally spend 75% or more of their budgets on program services.
2) They generally spend no more than $25 to raise $100.

Contact your favorite charities to find out the locations where they provide services and if they provide the specific types of aid that you would like to fund, e.g., emergency relief, health care, infrastructure development, education, etc.


Tips for Making the Most of Your Donation:

The devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina

· Give to newly created charities only if you have reliable third-party verification of their credibility and/or have knowledge of and trust the officers and directors of the new group.

· Do not assume that a claimed celebrity endorsement is real or that the celebrity has adequately scrutinized the charity.

· Give with check or credit card instead of cash. There is little assurance that coin or currency donations will actually go to the intended beneficiary.

· Be cautious about giving to individual victims that show up on covers of magazines or on television. Unpublicized victims may be more in need than publicized victims who are often flooded with gifts.

· Be cautious about giving in response to a telemarketing call. If you decide to donate, make sure you have reviewed all the information from the charity and ask what percentage of your contribution will fund the pertinent programs. For more tips on giving click here.

Send cash, not goodsThe best way to help is by sending a check. Cash donations enable charities to buy the most needed types of food, medicine, clothing, shelter materials and other supplies. By buying relief products locally or regionally, charities can reduce shipping costs and more rapidly deliver assistance. Before sending any goods, first contact the charity to find out if they are appropriate and if it will be cost effective to distribute them. For example, after the tsunami in southeast Asia, boxes of donated winter coats, scarves and fuzzy hats, completely useless items in tsunami stricken nations with tropical climates, were sent to these nations.

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