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When you give, do you know how much of your money actually goes to the worthy cause?

This time of year the appeals for handouts are plentiful. But even worthy-sounding organizations may not be spending much of their money on their supposed goals.

That means donors should do more than guard against impostors posing as well-known groups, charity authorities say. Even the real McCoy can be a bad deal.

To avoid throwing money into the wind, donors can evaluate a group's spending to see how much is going toward expenses like fund raising and management.

Where to get help:

The National Charities Information Bureau in New York compiles reports on spending by 400 national organizations. To meet the bureau's financial standards, an organization should spend at least 60 percent of its money on its mission. That means only 40 percent should go to management and fund-raising costs. The bureau can be reached at (212) 416-8400 or on the Internet at The bureau also provides a "Wise Giving Guide."

The New York State Office of the Attorney General Charities Bureau registers most not-for-profit organizations that raise money in the state. It can be reached at (212) 416-8400 or on the Web at The agency can tell callers if a charity is registered with the state, but requests for spending information must be in writing. For a report on a charity's spending, write to the state Department of Law, Charities Bureau, 120 Broadway, New York 10271.

The Better Business Bureau keeps reports on fund-raising groups in New York that respond to its requests for information. To meet the bureau's standard, an organization must spend at least 50 percent of its budget on its programs and activities. The Better Business Bureau is at 856-7180 or write to 346 Delaware Ave., Buffalo 14240.

-- Fred O. Williams

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