There are some unusual Christmas presents on offer this year, such as a goat for a family in the developing world or even a can of worms for a farmer in Africa.
But increasingly, before giving to charity many people want to know who runs the organisation, how donations are used, how many people the charity employs, and even how much employees are paid.
Alternative charity gifts are increasingly popular at Christmas
Now a new website aims to make it easier with comprehensive information on all 167,000 registered charities in England and Wales.
Guidestar claims to be more comprehensive than any other existing source of information about registered charities in the UK.
It is not a commercial site but is funded by charitable grants and money from the government.
The Charity Commission worked closely with Guidestar to help secure its funding and provides the site with existing public data on charities plus copies of charities' annual reports and accounts.
Charities can also update information on themselves.
Chief Executive Erica Roberts said getting it going has proved to be a massive task but she is hoping it will help encourage millions more in donations.
"This brings a whole new era of transparency to charities in the UK," she told BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme.
"People can make informed choices about charities that meet their particular interests or needs. This information had never been available before.
"You couldn't find out about which charities were working for which causes, in which particular areas. Guidestar makes all of this possible."
Visitors to the site can search for charities using key words to gain access to substantial information.
As well as a description of the work each charity does, Ms Roberts said: "There is information about where a charity gets its money, how it spends its money, the number of employees, the number of volunteers, and the money that is spent on staff salaries."
Guidestar does not police the information charities provide, but Ms Roberts said "the information is open to scrutiny by hundreds of thousands of different pairs of eyes".
And she added: "What we do on the site is we make it clear the source of each item of information that you look at, so you can see whether it has come from a regulatory document or whether that has been updated by the charity itself online."
Guidestar has plans to eventually expand to cover Scotland and Northern Ireland.
BBC Radio 4's Money Box was broadcast on Saturday, 17 December, 2005, at 1204 GMT.
The programme will be repeated on Sunday, 18 December, 2005, at 2102 GMT