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Donate to the Gulf cleanup, wisely

By Jen Haley, producer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- TV and newspaper images of oil-drenched beaches and wildlife may have you reaching into your wallet to help. Here's how to make sure you're getting the most out of your charity dollars.

Look for experience

Allocate your dollars to established organizations that have expertise in aiding Gulf communities. While there may be other charities that are eager to help relief efforts, they may lack the resources and management necessary for the job.

Track your money

Find out how the charity plans to spend your dollar. There are a number of ways that organizations are trying to pitch in, from protecting the shoreline and rehabilitating wildlife to advocating for different governmental energy policies. Ask that your donation is used for the company's Gulf-related activities, and not for general support of all its programs or administrative expenses.

Get a second opinion

Check out CNN.com/impact to get an idea of what charities are working in the area. And to check the reputation of the organization, go to the Better Business Bureau at BBB.org/charity.

Keep in mind that the Gulf region will be suffering from the effects of the oil spill for years to come. There will be plenty of opportunities for more donors down the road. If you can't find a cause you can get behind right now, you can always wait a few months and see what new organizations have stepped into action.

Talkback: Have you given to the Gulf oil spill clean-up effort? To top of page

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