Charity Navigator is a national service. We seek to help as many givers as possible, regardless of where they live or what kind of charity they wish to support. We celebrate and evaluate charities of all types, in all regions of the country, and whose work impacts all corners of the globe.
Because we aim to help givers and to celebrate charities nationwide, we use the following guidelines for choosing which charities to evaluate.
Tax Status: We only evaluate organizations granted tax-exempt status under section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code and that file a Form 990. 501(c) (3) organizations are considered public charities and all donations to them are tax-exempt.
- We do not evaluate 501(c) (4) organizations. In general, 501(c) (4) organizations are allowed to spend a substantial portion of their revenue on lobbying our government and not every donation to them is tax-deductible.
- We do not evaluate charities that are exempt from filing the Form 990. Many religious organizations, like the Salvation Army, are exempt under Internal Revenue Code from filing the Form 990. As a result, we lack sufficient data to evaluate their financial health.
- We do not evaluate private foundations. Private foundations, like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, receive the majority of their money from only one individual, family or corporation. This differs from the public charities that Charity Navigator evaluates. Public charities have a broad-base of support from the general public as well as variety of other funding sources. The IRS requires that private foundations file a Form 990-PF which differs from the document public charities file. This makes it impossible for us to compare the financial performance of private foundations to public charities.
- We do not evaluate organizations that file the Form 990-EZ. The Form 990-EZ requires less financial reporting than the Form 990, and as such, we would lack important data needed in our analysis.
Sources of Revenue: Because our goal is to help individual givers, we evaluate only those charities that depend on support from individual givers. Specifically, we require public support to be more than $500,000 and total revenue to be more than $1,000,000 for the two most recent fiscal years. We do not review charities that receive most of their funding from government grants, or from the fees they charge for their programs and services.
Length of Operations: We require 7 years of Forms 990 to complete an evaluation.
Location: We only evaluate charities based in the U.S. and registered with the IRS. However, the scope of a charity's work can be international.
Type of Programs: We rate all different types of charities so that donors with all different types of philanthropic passions can find a charity to support.
Spending Practices: We exclude charities that report $0 in fundraising expenses, as we are interested only in charities that actively solicit donations from the general public. We require that fundraising expenses are reported for the three most recent fiscal years.
Nonprofits that have received Donor Advisories may or may not meet the criteria listed above. See "How Do We Decide To Post A Donor Advisory?" for an explanation about our process for posting Donor Advisories.