This was the first year I ever donated anything financially substantial ($200+) to a charitable organization mostly because financial philanthropy wasn’t something instilled in me as a child at no fault of my parents (my father bought a one-way ticket from Taiwan to the U.S. and when asked “What happens if it doesn’t work out?” he responded “It has to.”). I had donated my time to local hospitals, various drives, and naturally some pints of blood but never straight up cash. But in reading an article in the news today, I saw that various health/medical charities received tons of money for research but not as much to fund things like screenings and tests – considered an overlooked “niche.” I was surprised only in that I didn’t even think about it like that.
When I sent a donation to the American Cancer Society  (and the Red Cross for Katrina), I wanted it to go towards research… to find a cure for cancer. But as the article pointed out, it’s hard to see the “results” of your donation. The ACS does a great job of explaining what your money funds –
– A donation of $250 funds 83 hours of service at our toll-free National Cancer Information Center
– $1,000 can ease the financial burden of a patient needing lodging near a cancer treatment center
– $2,500 can provide 25 breast cancer patients with support from trained survivors through our Reach to Recovery program
But if you were to take that same money and donate it to an organization offering free screenings/examinations or free lodging or something like that, you know that your money will be used to possibly help identify cancer at an early stage and quite possibly save someone’s life.
A great resource for finding out more about charities is CharityNavigator.org . I highly recommend this resource even though, sadly, I found out that the American Cancer Society  is a relatively inefficient organization (however, the American Red Cross  is great). 🙁 But… two organizations I am familiar with have four star ratings: Make-A-Wish Foundation International  and Locks of Love  (I never heard of them until my girlfriend donated some of her hair to them).