Do your homework before you donate.
That's the message from the Vermont attorney general's office this holiday season.
Often as little as 25 percent of what you hand over to charities actually makes it to people in need. The AG's office says many organizations use paid fundraisers to help them collect donations and those companies often take a significant amount of the money they bring in right off the top.
During the last fiscal year, paid fundraisers raked in $3.1 million from Vermonters, but the charities only received about 22 percent of the donations.
Experts say don't be afraid to ask how much of your money will go directly to the charity you're supporting.