For more than a decade, we have provided information addressing reported, alleged, or confirmed misconduct, or other questionable practices, to donors as a supplement to our ratings. The feature has been essential in helping the 11+ million donors that visit Charity Navigator annually make informed philanthropic decisions while also helping trustworthy charities build and maintain confidence and credibility with supporters.
We are proud to launch the next evolution – Charity Navigator Alerts. Alerts can be seen on Charity Navigator search results and on profile pages – they appear as four bell icons that indicate levels of concerns. Our goal is to provide additional transparency and direction to donors to bolster trust in the charitable sector – something that has declined in recent years. To that end, alerts aren’t meant to dissuade donors from giving but quite the opposite – alerts ensure donors have all the relevant information to make their choices.
The shift to the alerts comes on the heels of fully re-assessing existing methodology. Three goals emerged from this process:
Providing even greater nuance;
Softening the impact of the more minor alerts; and
Providing greater clarity and transparency.
With these goals in mind, we surveyed our site users, engaged expert groups (composed of donors, charity leaders, researchers, legal experts, and reporters), and consulted with branding experts; all to ensure that what we present to donors and charities met the three aforementioned guiding principles.
Today, alerts provide donors with additional nuance and direction through four levels of concern, an enhancement from the previous three-tiered model:
Review Before Proceeding: Issues of concern relating to the organization reported in a media outlet Charity Navigator deems reliable, but which do not have a significant legal proceeding or investigation by a relevant regulatory body associated.
Proceed with Caution: Matters of concern associated with a significant legal action or investigation by a relevant regulatory body, but have yet to be proven.
Proceed with Increased Caution: Matters of concern confirmed through the US legal or regulatory systems.
Giving Not Recommended: Reserved exclusively for organizations, or alleged organizations, which have been confirmed through US legal or regulatory systems to have engaged in substantial fraud or misrepresentation relating to the organization’s charitable purposes or activities, as determined through a legal proceeding. This includes Fake entities, entities that misrepresent their charitable purpose, and organizations that have otherwise engaged in misconduct sufficient to force the dissolution of the entity.
This structure aims to protect donors from the worst actors in the space by reserving its most alarming level (Giving Not Recommened) for those who have preyed upon the donating public's trust. It also tells a clearer story about the matters of concern that occupy the lower levels.
Fairness to charities
As in all we do, our team strives to provide the best product to donors seeking to make informed giving decisions while simultaneously striving to be fair to the charities on our website. As in the prior iterations of the system, we make a good faith effort to inform every charity affected by an alert so that they can provide additional information for review before publication. Charities are also encouraged to submit information to counter or provide explanations related to the alert at any point in its publication timeline.
Charity Navigator values accountability and transparency as key to maintaining donor trust. Therefore, if a charity can demonstrate that they have made an effort to implement corrective actions in the wake of a matter of concern and has been transparent with its constituents around the matter and efforts, an alert may be prevented or removed.
To learn more about the alerts and the associated methodology, visit charitynavigator.org/alerts.
Charities: If an alert has existed on your organization’s Charity Navigator profile page, and you have additional information that may affect its continued appearance on our site, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Provide your organization’s full name as it appears on Charity Navigator, a link to your profile page, and the name, title, email, and phone number for our Alert team to contact you.