Top local charities in Southwestern Wisconsin

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) With the holidays here, many are looking to donate to local charities. But before you open your wallet, InvestigateTV looked into where your money goes in a special report, Cashing in on Charity. NBC15's Amy Pflugshaupt did a quick check on some of the most popular charities in our area and which ones have top ratings.

Charity Navigator is a 501C3 pubic charity. It was founded in 2001, according to its website and complies information on charities to find out where the money is going. It uses two major categories to rank charities: financial health and its accountability and transparency.

Ashley Post is the communications manager for Charity Navigator and said, "Each charity's rating is updated annually when we receive its most recent Form 990 from the IRS."

She said updates are then published on the first of each month.

NBC15 has found that there are 50 charities in Wisconsin that have the highest ranking of "4 stars." In the NBC15 viewing area, there are several charities with 4 stars including one in Baraboo, two in Janesville, one in Middleton and several in Madison.

Dane County Humane Society
Domestic Abuse Intervention Services
ECHO (Everyone Cooperating to Help Others)
Freedom from Religion Foundation
Habitat for Humanity Dane County
Henry Vilas Park Zoological Society
International Crane Foundation
Middleton Outreach Ministry
The River Food Pantry
United Way Blackhawk Region
United Way of Dane Count
Wisconsin Women's Heath Foundation
Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin

Since NBC15 is in the middle of its Share Your Holidays Campaign, Amy Pflugshaupt looked a little closer into Second Harvest's numbers. In terms of financial health, it scores 97.5 out of 100. It gets a perfect score on accountability and transparency. This is based off of data from the fiscal year ending 2018, which is the most recent IRS Form 990 available to Charity Navigator. This information was published on Aug. 1, 2019.

You can watch InvestigateTV's full report on Cashing in on Charity: Donations meant to help sick children, wounded veterans, abused animals instead benefit for-profit fundraisers, by clicking here.