I have a small mental collection, which I occasionally add to, of extremely handy web sites that are worthy of permanent bookmarking. Sometimes they are funny or amusing as an exception, but for the most part they are functionally very good to know about.
First out of the chute: Better Business Bureau Charity Accreditation.
I give to a lot of charities regularly, but unless you have a personal hand in what's going on there, how do you know that your donation is well spent and on the right things? Any organization can say anything in a fund raising letter, but who checks for truthfulness and integrity?
The BBB's Charity Accreditation program has well-defined and remarkably stringent standards that any charity must meet in order to gain accreditation.
Before running a query, make sure to check the "Limit my results to only charities" checkbox first. When you run a search there, you will see an accreditation seal by any compliant organization:
You can click on that seal (or on the "No" that appears in its place when an organization fails muster) to see their levels of compliance or why they were not accredited. Especially handy: A pie chart that breaks down the percentages of their funds and how they are used, such as Programs, Salaries, Fundraising, etc.
All of the organizations that I give to are vetted by the BBB. I also dumped several that I had been giving to beforehand, when I found out that they weren't on the good list, and why.
Donate with confidence this holiday season, knowing your gifts are used wisely and effectively.