Charitable giving at year's end is a tradition at least as old as Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Scrooge launched some last-minute giving to square his accounts. Should you?

Financial check. Investigate the financial health of a nonprofit group, read - or write - reviews of institutions you are interested in, and make donations directly from the Guidestar site. Guidestar has data on hundreds of thousands of charitable groups and says it was founded to promote financial transparency among them. One of its strongest features is quick access to the IRS forms filed by nonprofit groups.

Tax issues. Dealing with charitable contributions on your tax return is the subject of one of the videos the Internal Revenue Service has posted on its YouTube page. Mainly, you need to know how to document donations to claim them as tax deductions. Not that that is why you should give. Other videos have advice for year-end tax planning and instructions for filing returns free.

Get to the main IRS YouTube page here:

Navigator. Want to find the biggest charities with the lowest-paid chief executive officers? Highly rated charities that depend on private contributions? Charities that routinely operate in the red or are in deep financial trouble? Charity Navigator takes the measure of 5,500 nonprofit groups that might need your gift. Click on the "Holiday giving guide" for year-end tips, including a warning to avoid spontaneous contributions based on social-media contacts, and encouragement to follow up on disaster-relief groups you contributed to during the year.

Teaching children. The Family Education site has advice for parents who want to teach philanthropy to their children. It recommends introducing a child to charities that address the issues that interest them, such as curing a disease, feeding the hungry, or supporting the arts or a religious group.