Here are some websites that can help you research charities, starting with sorting legitimate nonprofits from scams. You can get guidance on choosing charities in general, and collect a wealth of information on individual charities — listed categorically or alphabetically — that let you see how each one divides its budget, where it focuses its energies and how effective its efforts have been. The organizations that operate the sites use slightly different sets of standards to evaluate individual charities.
BBB Wise Giving Alliance, sponsored by the Better Business Bureau (give.org)
Minnesota Attorney General (ag.state.mn.us/Charity/Donors.asp)
Charity Navigator (charitynavigator.org)
Charities Review Council, based in St. Paul (smartgivers.org/Donors)