Mission: Little Kids Rock is a national nonprofit dedicated to transforming lives by restoring, expanding, and innovating music education in our schools. The organization par ... (More)

Little Kids Rock is a 501(c)(3) organization, with an IRS ruling year of 2002, and donations are tax-deductible.

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Contact Information


 P.O. Box 43369
Montclair NJ 07043 


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Star Rating System by Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator evaluates a nonprofit organization’s financial health including measures of stability, efficiency and sustainability. We also track accountability and transparency policies to ensure the good governance and integrity of the organization.


This charity's score is 93.98, earning it a 4-Star rating. Donors can "Give with Confidence" to this charity. 

This score is calculated from two sub-scores:

This score represents Form 990 data from 2020, the latest year published by the IRS.

View this organization’s historical ratings.

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Star Rated Report

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Program Expense

Program Expense Ratio


The Program Expense Ratio is determined by Program Expenses divided by Total Expense (average of most recent three 990s).

This measure reflects the percent of its total expenses a charity spends on the programs and services it exists to deliver. Dividing a charity's average program expenses by its average total functional expenses yields this percentage. We calculate the charity's average expenses over its three most recent fiscal years.

Source: IRS Form 990

Administrative Expenses


As reported by charities on their IRS Form 990, this measure reflects what percent of its total budget a charity spends on overhead, administrative staff and associated costs, and organizational meetings. Dividing a charity's average administrative expenses by its average total functional expenses yields this percentage. We calculate the charity's average expenses over its three most recent fiscal years.

Source: IRS Form 990

Fundraising Expenses


This measure reflects what a charity spends to raise money. Fundraising expenses can include campaign printing, publicity, mailing, and staffing and costs incurred in soliciting donations, memberships, and grants. Dividing a charity's average fundraising expenses by its average total functional expenses yields this percentage. We calculate the charity's average expenses over its three most recent fiscal years.

Source: IRS Form 990

Liabilities to Assets Ratio


The Liabilities to Assets Ratio is determined by Total Liabilities divided by Total Assets (most recent 990).

Part of our goal in rating the financial performance of charities is to help donors assess the financial capacity and sustainability of a charity. As do organizations in other sectors, charities must be mindful of their management of total liabilites in relation to their total assets. This ratio is an indicator of an organization’s solvency and or long term sustainability. Dividing a charity's total liabilities by its total assets yields this percentage.

Source: IRS Form 990

Fundraising Efficiency


The amount spent to raise $1 in charitable contributions. To calculate a charity's fundraising efficiency, we divide its average fundraising expenses by the average total contributions it receives. We calculate the charity's average expenses and average contributions over its three most recent fiscal years.

Source: IRS Form 990

Working Capital Ratio

0.60 years

Determines how long a charity could sustain its level of spending using its net available assets, or working capital, as reported on its most recently filed Form 990. We include in a charity's working capital unrestricted and temporarily restricted net assets, and exclude permanently restricted net assets. Dividing these net available assets in the most recent year by a charity's average total expenses, yields the working capital ratio. We calculate the charity's average total expenses over its three most recent fiscal years.

Source: IRS Form 990

Program Expense Growth


We compute the average annual growth of program expenses using the following formula: [(Yn/Y0)(1/n)]-1, where Y0 is a charity's program expenses in the first year of the interval analyzed, Yn is the charity's program expenses in the most recent year, and n is the interval of years passed between Y0 and Yn.

Source: IRS Form 990


Charity Navigator looks to confirm on the Form 990 that the organization has these governance practices in place.

Sources Include: IRS Form 990

Independent Voting Board Members  ... (More)
No Material Diversion of Assets ... (More)

A diversion of assets – any unauthorized conversion or use of the organization's assets other than for the organization's authorized purposes, including but not limited to embezzlement or theft – can seriously call into question a charity's financial integrity. We check the charity's last two Forms 990 to see if the charity has reported any diversion of assets. If the charity does report a diversion, then we check to see if it complied with the Form 990 instructions by describing what happened and its corrective action. This metric will be assigned to one of the following categories:

  • Full Credit: There has been no diversion of assets within the last two years.

  • Partial Credit: There has been a diversion of assets within the last two years and the charity has used Schedule O on the Form 990 to explain: the nature of the diversion, the amount of money or property involved and the corrective action taken to address the matter. In this situation, we deduct 7 points from the charity's Accountability and Transparency score.
  • No Credit: There has been a diversion of assets within the last two years and the charity's explanation on Schedule O is either non-existent or not sufficient. In this case, we deduct 15 points from the charity's Accountability and Transparency score.
Audited Financials Prepared by Independent Accountant ... (More)

Audited financial statements provide important information about financial accountability and accuracy. They should be prepared by an independent accountant with oversight from an audit committee. (It is not necessary that the audit committee be a separate committee. Often at smaller charities, it falls within the responsibilities of the finance committee or the executive committee.) The committee provides an important oversight layer between the management of the organization, which is responsible for the financial information reported, and the independent accountant, who reviews the financials and issues an opinion based on its findings. We check the charity's Form 990 reporting to see if it meets this criteria.

  • Full Credit: The charity's audited financials were prepared by an independent accountant with an audit oversight committee.

  • Partial Credit: The charity's audited financials were prepared by an independent accountant, but it did not have an audit oversight committee. In this case, we deduct 7 points from the charity's Accountability and Transparency score.
  • No Credit: The charity did not have its audited financials prepared by an independent accountant. In this case, we deduct 15 points from the charity's Accountability and Transparency score.
Does Not Provide Loan(s) to or Receive Loan(s) From Related Parties ... (More)
Documents Board Meeting Minutes ... (More)
Distributes 990 to Board Before Filing ... (More)
Compensates Board ... (More)


Charity Navigator looks to confirm on the Form 990, or for some metrics on the charity's website, that the organization has these policies in place.

Sources Include: IRS Form 990 and organization's website

Conflict of Interest  ... (More)
Whistleblower ... (More)
Records Retention and Destruction ... (More)
CEO Compensation Process ... (More)
Donor Privacy ... (More)

Donors have expressed extreme concern about the use of their personal information by charities and the desire to have this information kept confidential. The exchanging and sale of lists for telemarketing and the mass distribution of "junk mail," among other things, can be minimized if the charity assures the privacy of its donors. Privacy policies are assigned to one of the following categories:

  • Yes: This charity has a written donor privacy policy published on its website, which states unambiguously that (1) it will not share or sell a donor's personal information with anyone else, nor send donor mailings on behalf of other organizations or (2) it will only share or sell personal information once the donor has given the charity specific permission to do so.

  • Opt-out: The charity has a written privacy policy published on its website which enables donors to tell the charity to remove their names and contact information from lists the charity shares or sells. How a donor can have themselves removed from a list differs from one charity to the next, but any and all opt-out policies require donors to take specific action to protect their privacy.
  • No: This charity either does not have a written donor privacy policy in place to protect their contributors' personal information, or the existing policy does not meet our criteria.

The privacy policy must be specific to donor information. A general website policy which references "visitor" or "user" personal information will not suffice. A policy that refers to donor information collected on the website is also not sufficient as the policy must be comprehensive and applicable to both online and offline donors. The existence of a privacy policy of any type does not prohibit the charity itself from contacting the donor for informational, educational, or solicitation purposes.



Charity Navigator looks to confirm on the Form 990, or for some metrics on the charity's website, that the organization makes this information easily accessible.

Sources Include: IRS Form 990 and organization's website

CEO Salary Listed on 990 ... (More)
Board of Directors Listed on Website ... (More)
Key Staff Listed on Website ... (More)
Audited Financial Statements on Website ... (More)
Form 990 Available on Website ... (More)

Additional Information


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Total Revenue and Expenses

Total Revenue and Expenses

This chart displays the trend of revenue and expenses over the past several years for this organization, as reported on their IRS Form 990.

Salary of Key Persons

Presented here are this organizations key compensated staff members as identified by our analysts. This compensation data includes salary, cash bonuses and expense accounts and is displayed exactly how it is reported to the IRS. The amounts do not include nontaxable benefits, deferred compensation, or other amounts not reported on Form W-2. In some cases, these amounts may include compensation from related organizations. Read the IRS policies for compensation reporting

Dave Wish, CEO

$178,360 (2.00% of Total Expenses)

Current CEO and Board Chair can be found in the Leadership & Adaptability report below.

Source: IRS Form 990 (page 7), filing year 2020

Business Master File Data

Below are some key data points from the Exempt Organization IRS Business Master File (BMF) for this organization. Learn more about the BMF on the IRS website


Activity data not reported from the IRS

Foundation Status:

Organization which receives a substantial part of its support from a governmental unit or the general public   170(b)(1)(A)(vi) (BMF foundation code: 15)


Independent - the organization is an independent organization or an independent auxiliary (i.e., not affiliated with a National, Regional, or Geographic grouping of organizations). (BMF affiliation code: 3)

Data Sources: IRS Forms 990

The Form 990 is a document that nonprofit organizations file with the IRS annually. We leverage finance and accountability data from it to form Encompass ratings. Click here to view this organization's Forms 990 on the IRS website (if any are available).

Pandemic Response

Due to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, we give charities such as this one the opportunity to share the story of COVID's impact on them. Charities may submit their own pandemic responses through their nonprofit portal.

Little Kids Rock reported being impacted by COVID-19 in the following ways:
  • Program Delivery

  • Revenue

  • Staffing

How COVID-19 impacted the organization's operations financially:

Little Kids Rock’s Board of Directors challenged our finance team to ensure cash levels to cover 12 months of operating expenses, extending the 3-to-4-month model which we had used pre-pandemic. We continue to maintain a minimum of 12-months' operating expenses in cash; this will give us flexibility as we continue to adapt to the long-term effects of the pandemic. While we raised significantly less cash revenue than in years past—due to a pause on in-person fundraising events as well as decreased or paused grants from previous funders—we saw an increase in in-kind contributions, particularly digital curricular resources. Because of the critical actions taken early on in the pandemic as well as new partnerships, Little Kids Rock ended Fiscal Year 2021 with a significant surplus that we plan to spend against during the 2021-2022 school year, as we transition back to in-person learning.

How COVID-19 impacted the organization's delivery of programs:

In response to COVID-19, Little Kids Rock pivoted our service model entirely online as follows: 1) Professional Development: Training workshops were rescheduled and offered online using a variety of new digital tools and platforms. 2) Community for educators: In collaboration with our teachers, we organized virtual community-building events. 3) Curricular materials for our students and teachers: We crowd-sourced curricular resources from our network of thousands of teachers and developed new content to support digital and distance learning. 4) Classroom equipment and resources: We partnered with online learning platforms, such as Masterclass and Hal Leonard’s GuitarInstructor.com, and online music production software, such as Soundtrap, to provide our students with resources to support at-home learning.

How this organization adapted to changing conditions caused by COVID-19:

Little Kids Rock responded to the COVID-19 crisis in three phases: Phase 1 (3/2020 – 6/2020) addressed the immediate needs of our teachers and students until the end of the school year via weekly live-streamed lessons, increased production of video content, and crowd-sourced curricular resources from our teachers. Little Kids Rock also implemented a work-from-home policy for all staff members. Phase 2 (6/2020 – 9/2020) prepared teachers for the instructional shift anticipated for fall. We held our annual teacher conference virtually, for the first time ever, with presentations centered on the theme “Music Education in the Age of Digital & Distance Disruption.” Phase 3 (9/2020 – 6/2021) adapted to the challenges of virtual and hybrid learning models. We developed an entirely online teacher-training workshop series to empower teachers to provide virtual music instruction that supports students socially/emotionally and is accessible to students without musical instruments at home.

Innovations the organization intends to continue permanently after the pandemic:

Throughout the 2020-2021 school year, Little Kids Rock has been constantly evaluating our programming to adapt to the ever-evolving circumstances of digital and distance learning. By increasing communication with our teachers, we have been able to develop courses to meet their current needs. The new workshops and curricular resources we developed this year will continue to serve our teacher network for years to come. In addition, we found that virtual courses could accommodate a larger number and wider geographic range of teachers, as well as teachers who had previously struggled to attend full-day in-person workshops, such as teachers who are single parents. We plan to use a hybrid of virtual and in-person workshops moving forward to make our programming more accessible to more teachers.

Historical Ratings

Date PublishedForm 990 FYEOverall ScoreOverall Rating
Rating Version: 2.1
9/1/20212020 93.98
12/1/20202019 88.90
9/3/20192018 89.46
5/1/20182016 89.88
4/1/20172015 90.22
6/1/20162014 92.36
Rating Version: 2.0
9/1/20152013 93.48
5/1/20152013 92.89

This organization received multiple star ratings within this fiscal year, due to an update to it's Accountability and Transparency data and/or the receipt of an amended Form 990.

12/20/20132012 95.48
9/1/20122011 95.21
4/1/20122010 94.51
12/1/20112009 97.23
11/1/20112009 96.04
9/20/20112009 75.80
Rating Version: 1.0
12/1/20102009 96.09
3/1/20102008 93.90
2/1/20092007 93.66
5/1/20082006 93.05

...   Impact & Results

This score estimates the actual impact a nonprofit has on the lives of those it serves, and determines whether it is making good use of donor resources to achieve that impact.

Impact & Results Score

Not Currently Scored

Little Kids Rock cannot currently be evaluated by our Encompass Rating Impact & Results methodology because either (A) it is eligible, but we have not yet received data; (B) we have not yet developed an algorithm to estimate its programmatic impact; (C) its programs are not direct services; or (D) it is not heavily reliant on contributions from individual donors.

Note: The absence of a score does not indicate a positive or negative assessment, it only indicates that we have not yet evaluated the organization.

Learn more about Impact & Results.

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Additional Information


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Largest Programs

Largest Programs

Little Kids Rock reported its two largest programs on its FY 2020 Form 990 as:


Spent in most recent FY


Percent of program expenses



Spent in most recent FY


Percent of program expenses


...   Leadership & Adaptability

This score provides an assessment of the organization's leadership capacity, strategic thinking and planning, and ability to innovate or respond to changes in constituent demand/need or other relevant social and economic conditions to achieve the organization's mission.

Leadership & Adaptability Score


out of 100

The score earned by Little Kids Rock is a passing score. This score has no effect on the organization's Star Rating.

Encompass Rating V4 provides an evaluation of the organization's Leadership & Adaptability through the nonprofit organization submitting a survey response directly to Charity Navigator.

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Leadership & Adaptability Report


of 100 points


The nonprofit organization presents evidence of strategic thinking through articulating the organization’s mission

Little Kids Rock “transforms lives by restoring, expanding, and innovating music education in our schools.” Our network of thousands of K-12 teachers across 44 states leads a national movement that brings innovative and inclusive music education to students. The world of music expands through innovation. We ensure that music education does as well. Using genres including hip hop, rock, pop, Latin, and others, our program empowers teachers to build music classrooms as diverse as the kids they serve. Our students see themselves reflected in their classes, which strengthens their connection to their school, their peers, and their community. Little Kids Rock also donates necessary instruments and curriculum, meeting a key need of many school music programs. More than 550,000 kids currently participate in Little Kids Rock’s programs nationwide. Since 2002, the organization has reached more than 1,000,000 students with highly inclusive and culturally relevant music education.

Source: Nonprofit submitted responses


The nonprofit organization presents evidence of strategic thinking through articulating the organization’s vision.

Little Kids Rock envisions a music education in which cultural competency becomes the norm. In turn, the people who pursue careers in music and music education will look more like a representative cross-section of the public. To achieve this vision, we aim to use our methods and curriculum to address systemic inequity in education. We seek to provide alternate avenues for music education for students without instruments at home, ways to incorporate current music production technology into music instruction, and opportunities for young people of color to express themselves through their music education. We believe that this approach will make music education more diverse, inclusive, and equitable.

Source: Nonprofit submitted responses

Strategic Goals

The nonprofit organization presents evidence of strategic thinking and goal setting through sharing their most important strategic goals.

Goal One: As we near the end of our current 5-year strategic plan, 2017-2021, we have exceeded or are on track to meet our Strategic Goals, including unlocking the music maker in 500,000 students per year.

Goal Type: Grow, expand, scale or increase access to the existing programs and services.

Goal Two: Popular music education is established as a peer to other streams of music education.

Goal Type: This goal reflects our commitment to further our advocacy work for our organization and or cause area.

Goal Three: Our curricula and methodology are adopted statewide in key states (for effective scaling).

Goal Type: Grow, expand, scale or increase access to the existing programs and services.

Source: Nonprofit submitted responses

Leadership Development

The nonprofit provides evidence of investment in leadership development

Describe an investment in leadership

Little Kids Rock is committed to the professional and leadership development of our staff and executive team. We invest in online learning resources, such as LinkedIn Learning, for our staff and provide time during our regular staff meetings for team members to share their learnings. We conduct regular staff reviews for team members to gain feedback on their work and for the opportunity to advance in the organization. Our team has a strong history of internal professional advancement, where junior staff members have grown into the leaders of their teams and departments. We have also invested in executive coaching for our senior team, providing these staff members with the opportunity to strengthen their abilities and learn new skills to make them better organizational leaders. Senior staff and the Board have also begun succession planning to better prepare for future leadership transitions within the organization.

Source: Nonprofit submitted responses

Mobilizing for Mission

The nonprofit provides evidence of leadership through focusing externally and mobilizing resources for the mission.

This organization mobilizes for mission in the following ways:
  • Strategic Partnerships

  • Networks of Collective Impact Efforts

  • Thought Leadership

  • Raising Awareness

  • Community Building

  • Policy Advocacy

What are this organization’s external mobilizaton efforts?

Little Kids Rock seeks to transform the entire music education ecosystem including school districts, state departments of education, professional associations, and institutions of higher education to innovate music education at scale. We accomplish this through the following ways: - Partnering with public school districts and state departments of education to incorporate our programming in their curricula. - Training local teachers for an organic, grassroots spread of our programming. - Fostering partnerships with colleges and universities through publication in academic journals, collaborative research, and an annual fellowship program. - Convening music teachers, higher education professionals, and arts administrators from around the country at our annual Modern Band Summit conference. - Leveraging vendor partnerships to provide teachers with donated or deeply discounted equipment. - Facilitating a national online teacher community to collaborate and share resources.

Source: Nonprofit submitted responses

Story of Adaptability

The nonprofit has an opportunity to tell the story of how the organization adapted to tremendous external changes in the last year.

To continue to serve our constituents during the COVID-19 pandemic, Little Kids Rock accelerated our production and distribution of virtual, digital, and distance learning solutions. We pivoted the entirety of our operations to meet the needs of our teachers and students online by digitizing the service model and values that have guided the work of our organization for the last nineteen years. Our investments into our digital learning solutions and the new catalog of courses we have developed over the last year have put us in a strong position to respond to evolving health and safety protocols and navigate the varied approaches of our partner school districts across the nation. In the wake of the country’s reckoning for racial justice, Little Kids Rock launched a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion internal working group in consultation with an external consultant to evaluate protocols and processes and inform future practices. The goal of this group is to reflect and make recommendations on issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in our workplace, and advise the company as we make decisions moving forward to best impact the people we serve and achieve our mission. We have also created a Black Educators Focus Group, a volunteer body of Black educators, administrators, and industry professionals, who are similarly advising Little Kids Rock on externally facing DEI policies. This focus group supports our organization in overcoming implicit bias to better serve our teachers and students of color.

Source: Nonprofit submitted responses

Additional Information


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Organization Leadership

Organization Leadership

David Wish

CEO and Founder

Chris Donohoe


...   Culture & Community

This score provides an assessment of the organization's engagement with the constituents it serves, a practice we term Constituent Feedback. When organizations listen to constituents, they are able to better deliver on programs and meet the needs of stakeholders. A future version of this Beacon will also assess an organization's people operations and its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) metrics.

Culture & Community Score


out of 100

The score earned by Little Kids Rock is a passing score. This score has no effect on the organization's Star Rating.

Encompass Rating V4 provides an evaluation of an organization's Culture and Community by measuring its Constituent Feedback practices (see report below). Constituent Feedback data provides 100% of the basis for the initial evaluation of the Culture & Community Beacon.

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Culture & Community Report


of 100 points

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Constituent Feedback

Constituent Feedback

Full Credit

This organization reported that it is collecting feedback.

Here's how this organization is listening and learning from the people they serve:

How is your organization collecting feedback from the people you serve?

Electronic surveys (by email, tablet, etc.), Focus groups or interviews (by phone or in person), Community meetings or town halls, Suggestion box/email

How is your organization using feedback from the people you serve?

To identify and remedy poor client service experiences, To identify bright spots and enhance positive service experiences, To make fundamental changes to our programs and/or operations, To inform the development of new programs/projects, To identify where we are less inclusive or equitable across demographic groups, To strengthen relationships with the people we serve

With whom does your organization share the feedback you got from the people you serve?

The people we serve, Our staff, Our board, Our funders, Our community partners

What challenges does your organization face in collecting feedback from the people you serve?

We don't have any major challenges to collecting feedback

Briefly describe a recent change that your organization made in response to feedback from the people you serve.

Little Kids Rock developed our new “Digital Songwriting Production” course in response to approximately one-third of our teachers nationwide reporting that they struggled to reach students without instruments at home. As a result, this course uses digital audio workstations, such as Soundtrap or other apps, to empower students to make music online. As we developed new, multi-session online courses, we worked with participating teachers to determine the number of hours and sessions that best fit their schedules. In our 2020-2021 end-of-year evaluation, many teachers reported that virtual offerings made our program more accessible. We plan to offer a hybrid of in-person and virtual workshops moving forward so that our programming is available to as many teachers as possible.


Charity Navigator believes nonprofit organizations that engage in inclusive practices, such as collecting feedback from the people and communities they serve, may be more effective. We've partnered with GuideStar by Candid to survey organizations about their feedback practices. Nonprofit organizations can fill out the How We Listen section of their Candid profile to receive a rating.

Charity Navigator awards full credit for this Beacon to every nonprofit that is eligible for an Encompass Rating that completes the survey, in recognition of their willingness to publicly share this information with the nonprofit and philanthropic communities. This data is not evaluated for quality at this time. Validation will be added in future iterations of this Beacon.

Analysis and Research

Like the overall Encompass Rating System, the Culture & Community Beacon is designed to evolve as metrics are developed and ready for integration. Our partnership with Feedback Labs and Guidestar by Candid, and other partners including Fund for Shared Insight, GlobalGiving, and Keystone Accountability, enables us to launch the first version of this beacon with Constituent Feedback information collected on Candid's site.

Feedback practices have been shown to support better Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion outcomes, an essential area of assessment that we intend to further expand and develop in the future. Feedback Labs has documented several studies which indicate that beyond achieving organizational goals, nonprofits that are attentive and responsive to concerns and ideas raised by beneficiaries establish stronger relationships with the people they serve, promote greater equity, and empower constituents in ways that can help to ensure better long-term outcomes. You can find resources to help nonprofits improve their feedback practices here.

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