1. Be proactive. Identify the causes you care most about, then do research to find the best charities carrying out that type of work. This keeps you on the offensive rather than in a defensive “point of sale” posture in the face of heart-tugging pitches.

2. Give a few large gifts instead of many small ones. Don’t be guilt-tripped into giving to every worthy cause. Developing your own “portfolio” of charities gives you more sway within the organizations and makes you more inclined to give carefully.

3. Never give over the phone in cold-call situations. Instead, if you’re interested, keep your donations out of the hands of telemarketers by donating via the group’s website or mailing a check.

4. Perform due diligence. Look into the group’s finances, and once you give, follow up to find out how the money was spent.

5. Take advantage of these watchdog groups. Before making a donation, check out the charity at these websites: Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, and the National Association of State Charity Officials.