The holiday season brings out in many of us a generous and thankful attitude.

In fact, some surveys have indicated that more than 50 percent of all charitable donations are made in the short period between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Though this is the season of generosity, it is important to remember that not all charitable donations are created equal.

Some "charities" use a large percentage of their donations to pay for administrative salaries, accounting and legal fees, liability insurance and other costs.

A quick look at the Web site www.charitynavigator.org will give you lists of charities "drowning in administrative costs" and "routinely in the red."

While it is important to be aware of some of these poorly managed organizations, we also should understand that there still are many excellent organizations that honestly use collected donations for the intended purposes.

Here are some steps to take in order to ensure that your donation to charity does the most good for your money:

1) Learn all you can about a particular organization before you donate. Don't just take the word of a celebrity, a friend, or a letter or phone call.

2) Ask a third party for an evaluation of the organization. Helpful online resources include charitynavigator.com, give.org and charitywatch.org.

3) Avoid cash donations that can be lost or stolen. If possible, pay by check. This also can help you keep track of possible tax deductions you may receive from your donation.

4) Ask for a receipt. It also can be used to verify tax deductions.

5) If you are solicited, by phone or in person, by someone who says they're representing a local charity, call the organization's local office to see if the individual is an actual representative of the organization.

6) Don't provide personal information such as credit card numbers until you are sure of the charity.

7) Ask what percentage of your donation is actually given to the cause, and how much is retained by the organization for operating costs.

As the holiday season warms your heart, make sure the aware consumer inside of you doesn't take a nap. The best charitable decision you can make is an informed one.

For more helpful seasonal information, see my blog at SWKTalk.com/livingwell.