Donation ranking: With these organizations your money is in good hands

We never donate as much as we do during the Christmas season. But with which organisations does the money end up where it is really needed? We have five recommendations for you.

Big gorilla eyes pout at you from a big poster. On television you see children playing on the street, emaciated to the bone. Underneath is a donation hotline. “Do you want to do something good?” they shout to you in the pedestrian zone. Everyday life these days, because the feast of charity is getting closer and closer.

In no other time do we donate as much as we did before Christmas. The month of December accounts for one fifth of all donations annually, reports the German Donation Council. The organisations who all want to get a piece of the big donation cake know that too. But which organizations receive the most of our donated piece? And where do the crumbs end up with the needy, because the bureaucracy eats up everything?

Imagine you want to donate 100 euros. A lot of money that can make a difference – if it ends up in the right hands. Whether an organization works seriously or not is usually stated in the annual report. There the organisation lists what it earned money from last year and – much more importantly – what it spent it on again.

For Stefan Loipfinger, the annual report is the most important source of information about a donation organization. “If you don’t answer these standard questions transparently, you haven’t earned the donors’ money,” says Loipfinger.

The donation expert has been running the CharityWatch.

Information portal for years, observing donation organizations and uncovering grievances. But six years ago Loipfinger stopped this work. The reason: Organizations regularly filed complaints against him, and he repeatedly received threatening letters, as he announced on his website.

According to Loipfinger, the seal of the German Central Institute for Social Issues is also an important point of reference. The DZI only awards a seal if the organization meets all quality standards after a six-month audit. Among other things, the benefactors have to prove that they use the donations sparingly and economically and that they do not use drastic pictures and misleading information in their advertising.

Donation organizations under test: Transparency, seriousness and impact.

The catch: The donation seal costs money. On top of a basic fee of 500 euros, 0.035 percent of the organisation’s total annual income is added. That makes with an organization, which takes in approximately 50,000 euro in the year, scarcely 600 euro audit costs annually. Money that does not end up in the projects.

That is why many small organisations do not use the seal. In addition, the expert recommends the Transparent Civil Society Initiative as a source of information. Registration is free and obliges the organisation to make certain information public. This includes, for example, information about employees, guidelines and contact details.

Two years ago, Spiegel Online commissioned the Phineo analysis company to check the transparency of 50 donation organizations. The partial evaluations in the areas of vision and strategy, activities and impact result in a star rating. Five stars are the maximum, six organisations have achieved it – including Unicef, Doctors Without Borders and Kindernothilfe.

We’ve reviewed the following five categories for you:

Development aid
child and youth welfare
Environmental and nature conservation
animal welfare

In each category we first show you three to five large organisations and then look at how transparently they work, how much money ends up in the project or administration and whether they carry the DZI seal.

Donation Ranking 2018: Development Aid

In this category we compared World Vision, Caritas, Plan International, Care, Doctors Without Borders and Welthungerhilfe. For more than 25 years, our winner, Welthungerhilfe, has carried the DZI seal of approval for the organisation.

If you donate 100 euros to Welthungerhilfe, only 5.70 euros will go into advertising and administration. For comparison: Plan International donates 18 euros. In the Spiegel Online donation ranking, Welthungerhilfe is one of the best. There are 5 stars for transparency in all areas.

Welthungerhilfe is currently on site with a project in Syria. Millions of people are fleeing the civil war to the north and have been living there for years in refugee camps. Mostly there is neither running water nor electricity. Not to mention sanitary facilities.

+++ Who is actually fighting whom in Syria? +++

Together with its partner “Hand in Hand for Syria”,

Welthungerhilfe is now building toilets in these refugee camps. This makes the shelters cleaner and the people less sick. More than 4,000 inhabitants in Northern Syria already have access to toilets.

Donation Ranking 2018: Children and Young People

In this category we compared Unicef, Kindernothilfe, Ein Herz für Kinder, Save The Children and the SOS Children’s Villages. Our recommendation: the SOS Children’s Villages. Both Unicef and Kindernothilfe were able to convince the Spiegel with a full score in the Transparency Ranking.

However, one fifth of Unicef’s donations went into advertising and bureaucracy. The SOS Children’s Villages scored only 4.4 transparency stars, but were able to score with lower advertising and administrative costs. With a donation of 100 euros, 88 percent go directly to the project.