Although Charity Navigator rates more organizations than anyone else in America has ever attempted, we still receive requests to rate additional charities. The truth is that we've already evaluated the majority of the organizations that meet our criteria, but we do realize there are many worthy organizations that we do not currently evaluate. That’s why we’ve created this quick guide to help donors do their own due diligence on the charities seeking their support. While there are many more factors that go into a complete Charity Navigator evaluation (see our Methodology), we’ve pulled some simple, easy-to-find facts that will help you decide which charities deserve your contributions.
A note before you start:
Charities are required to submit an annual Form 990 with the IRS. This document provides information about a charity's finances and governance practices. This guide to evaluating charities not currently rated by us uses the Form 990 (just as we do in our complete evaluations) to review certain elements of a charity’s performance. So, the first thing you need to do is to locate the charity's profile page on our site and scroll to the bottom of the page. There you'll see links to the charity's Form 990 (you will need to complete a free registration process and log into the site for the links to function). Simply click on the charity's most recently filed Form 990 and keep it open while you follow the steps below.
There are three main things to look at when evaluating a charity:
Use our recommended list of questions to learn about a charity's accomplishments, goals and challenges by reviewing its website and/or talking with staff. They should be able to tell you about the quality and depth of their results as well as their capacity to continue to get these results, not just the number of activities or people served. This is critical step, after all, the charity's ability to bring about long lasting and meaningful change in the lives of people and communities should be the key reason for your financial investment.
We hope this guide will help you make informed giving decisions about charities that we don't currently rate. Remember a true Charity Navigator evaluation considers many additional factors when completing a rating. By doing your homework and following this step-by-step guide you can make informed choices about your philanthropic endeavors.