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FAQs

 
 

For Donors

  1. How do I find a charity on your site? Answer
    • You can use our trusted ratings to find a charity you can support. Our intelligent search engine will help you identify a charity by name or keyword by simply using the search feature located at the top of every page. Then you can refine your search using the 'Filter Your Search Results' function located on the left-hand side of the search results. This tool enables you to filter by such things as category, state, rating, size, scope of a charity's work and by whether or not it has a privacy policy.

      Additionally, you may wish to try our advanced search tool, browes our categories and hot topics, view all 4-star charities, or explore an alphabetical list of the thousands of charities that we've evaluated.
       
  2. How can I request that Charity Navigator evaluate a specific charity? Answer
    • Charity Navigator currently evaluates more than 8,000 charitable organizations, making us America's largest charity evaluator. In fact, the ones we evaluate account for roughly 40% of the donations in America (excluding donations to houses of worship).
      • Even if we don’t rate a charity, you can still find basic information about it on its listing our site. That page will also include a link to the steps you can follow to conduct your own due diligence.

      • If you are a registered user of our site (this is free) and the charity meets our criteria for evaluation, then you can click on the Vote Now button on the charity’s page on our site to vote for us to rate it.

      • You may also wish to use our advanced search tool to look for other charities that match your philanthropic interests.

  3. Does it cost to use Charity Navigator? Answer
    • No, you do not have to pay to use our service.

      Charity Navigator accepts no funding from the charities that we evaluate, ensuring that our ratings remain objective. Furthermore, in our commitment to help America's philanthropists of all levels make informed giving/ social investment decisions, we refuse to charge our users for this trusted data. As a result, Charity Navigator, a 501 (c) (3) public charity itself, depends on support from individuals, corporations and foundations that believe we provide a much-needed service to America's charitable donors. 
       
  4. Is this charity legitimate? Answer
    • While not all inclusive, we do have a listing of fake charities on our site. You will want to avoid these groups.

      That said, if the organization you are looking into has a regular listing on our site, then it is a bona fide nonprofit organization. On its profile page, you can see if it is a 501 (c ) (3) public charity.  This is an important designation because donations to 501 (c) (3) public charities qualify for a tax deduction whereas gifts to other types of nonprofits typically do not.  Rest assured that all of the charities evaluated by Charity Navigator meet this basic requirement.

      Remember, just because the organization is a bona fide nonprofit, doesn't mean it is worthy of your support. Be sure to do your due diligence before you give. 
       
  5. I voted for a charity to be rated by Charity Navigator. When will it be evaluated? Answer
    • If you have voted to have a charity rated, then it will take a minimum of several months until we are able to add that charity to the list of charities that we rate. As the vote tallies increase for specific charities, we will review them as soon as possible to determine if they meet all of our criteria for qualify to be rated. If the charity does meet the criteria, then our team of analysts will work to complete and publish a rating for that charity. And you will receive an email from us once the rating is accessible on our site.

      In the meantime, every charity does have a page of basic information on our site, even if we haven't yet rated it.
       
  6. Which charities do you evaluate? Answer
  7. The CEO's salary of my favorite charity seems high, should I make a contribution? Answer
    • While there are certainly some charities that overpay their leaders, Charity Navigator's data shows that those organizations are the minority. Among the charities we've evaluated (those being mid to large-sized charities), the typical CEO's annual compensation is in the low to mid six figures. Before you make any judgments about salaries higher or lower than that range, we encourage you to keep in mind that these charities are complex organizations, with multi-million dollar budgets, hundreds of employees, and thousands of constituents. These leaders could inevitably make much more running similarly sized for-profit firms. Furthermore, when making your decision it is important to consider that it takes a certain level of professionalism to effectively run a charity and charities must offer a competitive salary if they want to attract and retain that level of leadership.

      For additional information, please take a look at Charity Navigator's CEO Compensation study.

  8. Does the CEO salary impact a charity's rating? Answer
    • The CEO salary does not specifically impact a charity's Financial Health rating (other than it being factored into the expenses). We provide this information solely as part of our larger effort to bring transparency to the charitable sector and to help educate donors. It is a matter of public record. In publishing this data we also enable charities to benchmark their executives' compensation against that of their peers.

      However, failure to properly report CEO compensation information on a charity's form 990 will result in a deduction of points from the charity's Accountability and Transparency score.

  9. How did the charity I looked at get the rating it has? Answer
    • We rate charities by evaluating two broad areas of performance; their Financial Health and their Accountability & Transparency. Our ratings show givers how efficiently we believe a charity will use their support today, how well it has sustained its programs and services over time and their level of commitment to being accountable and transparent. We provide these ratings so that givers can make intelligent giving decisions, and so that the philanthropic community can more effectively monitor itself.

      Visit the Methodology section of our site to read an in-depth explanation of our rating system.
       

 

For Charities

  1. How do I find my charity on your site? Answer
    • Our intelligent search engine will help you identify a charity by name or keyword by simply using the search feature located at the top of every page. Then you can refine your search using the 'Filter Your Search Results' function located on the left-hand side of the search results. Additionally, you may wish to try our advanced search tool.
       
  2. How do I find out who my rep is and/or change my charity’s official rep? Answer
    • Only one person per charity can be the official representative. You may contact us at info@charitynavigator.org to find out who is the current representative and to update that listing if that person is no longer on staff.
       
  3. How do you decide which charities to rate? Answer
  4. How did my charity receive this rating? Answer
    • We rate charities by evaluating two broad areas of performance; their Financial Health and their Accountability & Transparency. Our ratings show givers how efficiently we believe a charity will use their support today, how well it has sustained its programs and services over time and their level of commitment to being accountable and transparent. In the not-too-distant future, we plan to also rate charities’ reporting of their results. We provide these ratings so that givers can make intelligent giving decisions, and so that the philanthropic community can more effectively monitor itself.

      Visit the Methodology section of our site to read an in-depth explanation of our rating system.

  5. When will my charity's rating be updated? Answer
    • Charity Navigator obtains copies of each charity's Form 990 directly from the IRS shortly after it is filed. We do this to (1) expedite our process of evaluating charities, (2) refrain from imposing burdensome reporting requirements on the charities we rate, and (3) to ensure each charity is updated in the order in which it files new data. Once we have a new Form 990 for your organization from the IRS, we will promptly update your charity's record and publish a new evaluation on the first of the following month.
       
  6. Can I appeal my organization’s rating? Answer
    • While we don't have a formal appeal process, you are always welcome to contact your charity's analyst to learn more about your rating and discuss how it could be improved.
       
  7. We do have a donor privacy policy, yet your site states we do not. How do we update that? Answer
    • Please visit the Methodology section of our site for a detailed explanation paying close attention to these pages: How Do We Rate Charities' Accountability and TransparencyAccountability and Transparency Ratings Tables and How Do We Calculate the Overall Score and Star Rating. If, after reviewing those pages, you believe your policy meets our criteria, then your charity's official representative is able to log into a simple editing form and notify our analysts that you have a new policy. Then our analysts will review your submission and update your charity’s rating accordingly or contact you for additional information. 

      If your organization does not yet have an approved representative, then you simply need to visit your charity’s rating page and click on the ‘Charity Login’ link at the bottom to become your charity’s official representative. Once you have been approved, then you’ll have permission to make these simple edits.
       
  8. We do have our audit/990 posted on our website, can you update that? Answer
    • Regarding the Website Metrics: If your charity has updated its website such it now includes any of the Accountability & Transparency rating metrics that we monitor (this includes publishing your Donor Privacy Policy, Board Members, Key Staff, Audited Financials and Form 990), then we encourage your charity’s official representative to provide us links to that information via our online charity input form. (If you haven’t already done so, you must establish a registered representative from your charity in order to use the charity input form.) Our analysts will review your submission and when appropriate issue a new rating for your charity within a month or two.

      Regarding the Form 990 Metrics: We are able to make updates to a charity’s Accountability & Transparency data regarding some of the metrics without first receiving a new or amended Form 990. However, please note that this is a one-time override, and the next Form 990 filed by the organization needs to reflect these metrics accurately. The following metrics can be updated by your charity’s official representative via our online charity input form:

      Independent Board members: To update this metric, we require that all your Board members are listed on your charity’s website and that there is a clear notation as to which ones are independent, voting members. You should also indicate the date that applies to their membership so we can determine if this is your current or prior Board composition.

      Documents Board meeting minutes: You must publish one year’s worth of minutes on your website so that our analysts can review it. You are permitted to remove confidential information.

      Conflict of Interest policy: The policy needs to be listed on your website so that our analysts can review it.

      Whistleblower policy: The policy needs to be listed on your website so that our analysts can review it.

      Records Retention policy: The policy needs to be listed on your website so that our analysts can review it.

      Process for determining CEO compensation: Your process must be published on your website even, if your CEO is an unpaid volunteer.

      Compensation of Board members: If the compensation you reported on your Form 990 for a Board member is not related to Board work, then please contact us with an explanation. However, if your Board member’s pay meets the threshold for completing schedule L, then we will require a new or amended Form 990 to confirm.

      Audited Financials prepared by Independent Accountant: If an Audit was completed by an Independent Auditor but the Form 990 was incorrect in stating one was not completed, then the Audit must be published on your website so that our analysts can review it.

      As a reminder, in order to access and updated your online charity input form, your charity must first establish a registered representative.

      We can not make updates to a charity’s Accountability & Transparency data regarding the following metrics unless we have received a new or amended Form 990 from the IRS confirming the changes: Material diversion of assets, Loan(s) to or from related parties, Audit oversight committee, Copy of Form 990 provided to organization's governing body in advance of filing, CEO listed with salary.

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Charity Navigator is turning 15!

Together, with donors like you, we have been able to:

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  • Support the long-term missions of charities through our encouragement of informed giving

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For 15 years, Charity Navigator has equipped donors with unbiased charity evaluations and tools to help you make informed giving decisions. Learn more about that journey and the bold goals on our road ahead.

Charity Navigator is turning 15!

Together, with donors like you, we have been able to:

  • Continually provide new and updated charity ratings
  • Increase charity transparency and accountability
  • Support the long-term missions of charities through our encouragement of informed giving

Did you know that we’re a charity, too? Your donation will help us provide new tools and information that you can rely on to make impactful giving choices. Your gift of any size will make a difference!