Today (Nov. 28) was Giving Tuesday, a day designated by the United Nations and New York City's 92nd Street Y as a universal day of giving, as a way to establish a contrast to the consumerism of the holiday season. But despite that rampant consumerism, the month of December is when Americans are most likely to donate to charities. According to some sources, a third of all charitable gifts in any given year are made in December: partly due to cultural pressures and partly due to deadlines for tax deductions.
If you're thinking of donating money before year's end, you'll want to find out where your money to the most good. Charitynavigator.org ranks charities on the percentage of the donations they receive that actually goes to helping a cause, as opposed to, say, administrative costs. Another useful tool is Givewell, which ranks charities in terms of lives saved or improved by their efforts. You could also review this list of recommended charities and tips on maximizing your giving put together by a staff writer at Vox.com.