Eight of the charities have been banned in at least one state.
One was shut down by regulators but reopened under a new name.
A third of the charities' founders and executives have put relatives on the payroll or the board of directors.
For eight years, American Breast Cancer Foundation paid Joseph Wolf's telemarketing company to generate donations.
His mother, Phyllis Wolf, had founded the Baltimore-based charity and was its president until she was forced to resign in 2010.
While she ran the charity, her son's company, Non Profit Promotions, collected $18 million in telemarketing fees.
Phyllis Wolf left the charity after the payments to her son attracted media attention in 2010. The charity has since stopped using telemarketers, including Joseph Wolf's.
Phyllis and Joseph Wolf did not respond to several calls seeking comment.
The nation's worst charities are large and small. Some are one-person outfits operating from run-down apartments. Others claim hundreds of employees and a half-dozen locations around the country. One lists a UPS mail box as its headquarters address.
Several play off the names of well-known organizations, confusing donors.
Among those on the Times/CIR list are Kids Wish Network, Children's Wish Foundation International and Wishing Well Foundation. All of the names sound like the original, Make-A-Wish, which does not hire professional telemarketers.
Make-A-Wish officials say they've spent years fielding complaints from people who were solicited by sound-a-like charities.
"While some of the donations go elsewhere, all the bad public relations that comes with telemarketing seems to come to us," said Make-A-Wish spokesman Paul Allvin.
Donors who answer calls from the 50 worst charities hear professionally honed messages, designed to leverage popular causes and hide one crucial fact: Almost nothing goes to charity.
When telemarketers for Kids Wish call potential donors, they open with a name you think you've heard before.
Then they ask potential donors to "imagine the heartbreak of losing a child to a terminal illness," according to scripts filed with North Carolina regulators in 2010.
Kids Wish, the callers say, wants to fulfill their wishes "while they are still healthy enough to enjoy them."
They leave out the fact that most of the charity's good deeds involve handing out gift cards to hospitalized children and donated coloring books and board games to healthy kids around the country. And they don't mention the millions of dollars spent on salaries and fund-raising every year.
The biggest difference between good charities and the nation's worst is the bottom line.
Every charity has salary, overhead and fundraising costs.
But several watchdog organizations say charities should spend no more than 35 percent of the money they raise on fund-raising expenses.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation of Central and North Florida is one of dozens of Make-A-Wish chapters across the country.
Last year, it reported raising $3.1 million cash and spent about 60 percent of that -- $1.8 million -- granting wishes.
The same year, Kids Wish raised $18.6 million, its tax filing shows. It spent just $240,000 granting wishes -- 1 percent of the cash raised.