In Canada, charities that are registered with the federal government enjoy certain benefits that other non-profit organizations do not. In exchange for being compliant with multiple government regulations, they have the ability of issuing tax receipts which equates to a refund of income taxes of 20.06% for the first $200 donated, and 43.7% for anything above that, using BC rates.
One of the items that a registered charity has to comply with is reporting to the Canada Revenue Agency so there is a degree of transparency where people can see where money is raised and spent within a charity. You can access this on the CRA Charities Listings site.
It is very important to know when an executive of a registered charity says that “We do not receive any government funding” that you check lines 4540 to 4560 on the return; if you see revenues there, the management is lying to the public. In addition, they are implicitly receiving government funding due to the value of the tax refund from charitable contributions. For example, if you were to donate $1,000 to a charity, your after-tax cost is actually $610.28. The federal and provincial government are essentially donating the other $389.72 in the form of an income tax refund.
Also there is the well-known issue of having a high percentage of money wasted on administration expenses. If line 5010 (Management and Administration component of total expenditures) and 5020 (Money spent to raise more money) are high compared to total expenditures in a charity, I would look at it as probable that they are not being efficiently run.
My advice would be to donate only to registered charities that you know at least one of the directors of, and your opinion of the director is positive. At least if they incompetently squander your money, you’ll be able to grill them in person and keep them accountable.