I am somewhat on Dave's side on this.
I research the charity and I tend to try and give to charities with a tangable outcome..local food banks/ shelter programs, disabled veterans, etc.
I actually tend to stay away from medical research charities.
Here is where I will probably get attacked, and if I am wrong in my perseption, please let me know.
Medical research is either
a) done by large firms with tons of money.
b) done by small firms with government grant money
c) universities with private/government funds.
so if a big company does a breakthrough, they will charge a hefty sum to make their money back. (chemo is not cheap, AIDS treatment cocktails are not cheap, etc) and stock prices go up
If a small company makes a break through they get bought by a large company for a lot of money.
If a university makes a breakthrough the university benefits by selling the rights to a private company.
Lets pick breast cancer....there are so many fundraiser for the "cure" (wlaks, races, pink ribbons, etc) that there has to be a huge amount of money going towards the research. But who is doing the research (getting the money) and is throwing money at it really getting us closer to a cure? What if say Glaxo finds the "cure" for breast cancer and they recieved $500million from all of these fundraisers? Does that mean they will give out $500 million of free cures? What about Phizer who also got $500million ove rthe same time and instead of curing cancer they stumbled across a better sleeping aid that they make $$$ off of.
Sorry to sound so cynical, but just my opinion.
Disclaimer: Breast Cancer and the pharmicutical companies I mentioned are just arbitrary and were the first things that popped into my head as annectodal examples. I have no personal opinion of those over anyother cause/company.
I am also not commenting on whether it is right for a company to make money off of their R&D to bring a treatment to the forefront, just that I feel that donating money to a company to find a cure that they can profit off of is not right.