There are several resources for reviews on charities which can be used to determine whether or not a charity is a suitable recipient of donations of goods, services, or funds. Numerous agencies examine charities to look at how their funds are used, how efficiently they operate, and whether or not charitable organizations have received complaints. These reviews are freely accessible to members of the general public who wish to examine them.
If your nation has a Better Business Bureau or similar organization, it is often a good resource to start with when evaluating charities. Organizations which agree to participate in the Better Business Bureau (BBB) submit themselves to auditing, provide information about themselves, and provide an avenue for people who wish to compile complaints. The BBB may use grading or numerical ratings to indicate how trustworthy and efficient a charity is, and it also typically includes disclosures of financial organization, like what percentage of donations actually goes to the cause the charity supports.
Checking for government status as a recognized charity can also help, because this suggests that a charity submits paperwork for auditing by tax authorities and conforms with certain rules. However, being certified as a charity does not automatically make an organization reputable.
Private charity ratings organizations like Smart Givers, Charity Navigator, and the American Institute of Philanthropy also evaluate charities and rate them, using their own criteria. Reports from these organizations can be very trustworthy and informative, and these groups also review charities whether or not they submit themselves for rating, meaning that the pool of organizations reviewed is not self-selecting.
Another good source is a local newspaper or service organization. Newspapers often list charities they think are worthy or reputable around the holiday season to encourage people to donate, and their reporters may also periodically profile local organizations. Service organizations also provide reviews of charities and recommendations to members of the public who ask, as do many churches. Some churches or service organizations are officially affiliated with particular charities which are usually carefully vetted, and these organizations can be a good resource for information on good places to donate.
Information about charities can also be obtained from reputable nonprofit organizations. If a nonprofit organization will not offer specific recommendations because it wants to encourage people to donate to it, rather than to another group, potential donors can look at charities which the organization has been affiliated with. If Nonprofit A and Charity B have worked together on a project, chances are high that the nonprofit investigated the charity and determined that it was a worthy organization to work with, and therefore the charity is probably a good candidate for a donation.