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What Do Our Ratings Mean?

 
 
 

We believe our ratings dramatically improve the quantity and quality of information available to charitable givers/social investors. Our ratings provide clear, objective, and reliable assessments of both the Financial Health and Accountability & Transparency of charities. By utilizing our ratings, donors can learn how a charity compares on these performance metrics with other charities throughout the country. Donors can be more confident that in supporting those charities rated highly by Charity Navigator, they will be supporting organizations that are more financially healthy, accountable, and transparent. Our 4-star rating scales correspond to the following rubric:

No. of Stars Qualitative Rating Description
4 Stars Exceptional Exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in its Cause.
3 Stars Good Exceeds or meets industry standards and performs as well as or better than most charities in its Cause.
2 Stars Needs Improvement Meets or nearly meets industry standards but underperforms most charities in its Cause.
1 Stars Poor Fails to meet industry standards and performs well below most charities in its Cause.
0-Stars Exceptionally Poor Performs far below industry standards and below nearly all charities in its Cause.
Donor Advisory No Rating Serious concerns have been raised about this charity which prevents the issuance of a star rating (See how we decide to post a Donor Advisory).
 

Ratings vs. Rankings

Our ratings are not rankings. We do not identify the best performing charity in each of our performance categories. Nor do we assign ratings to charities based on where they fall in a top-to-bottom ranking, so that a charity's score in a metric is equal to its rank. We believe that rating charities according to rankings would mislead givers and treat charities unfairly.
Instead of ranking charities, our ratings are qualitative designations. After analyzing how more than 8,000 charities function financially, we define qualitatively distinct ranges of financial performance. For example, we believe that charities which spend less than 10% of their budgets on fundraising all perform in a financially exceptional way. Whether they spend 1% or 9%, we score all of those charities equally assigning a score of 10 in that metric.
 

Do Your Research!

Today, Charity Navigator rates the financial health, accountability, and transparency of charities. While our system does not currently evaluate the quality of the programs and services a charity provides, we are working on developing a methodology for evaluating each charity's Results Reporting. For more information regarding the scope of our ratings system, please click here.  In the meantime, when making giving decisions we recommend that donors use our ratings in conjunction with other research. For more guidance on making giving/investing decisions, please visit our Tips for Donors.
 
 

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