FAQ About the Star Rating System

FAQ About the Star Rating System

  1. How do I find my charity on your site? Answer
    • Our intelligent search engine will help you identify a charity by Employer Identification Number (EIN), which is unique to every organization, or 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
    • Star Rated Charities: 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.

      Encompass Rated and Unrated Charities: Encompass rated and unrated charities do now allow for this feature but at this time is limited to providing information regarding the Leadership & Adaptability beacon and the Pandemic Response questions.

  3. How do you decide which charities to provide a star rating for? Answer
  4. How did my charity receive this star rating? Answer
    • We provide star ratings for 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 star 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 star rating? Answer
    • You are always welcome to contact your charity's analyst to learn more about your star 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 Transparency, Accountability 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 as part of our Star rating? 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 members 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.

  9. What is the Encompass rating? Answer
    • For details regarding the Encompass rating please see our Encompass FAQs.

If you did not see your question above, then please see our expanded list of FAQs.

If you are a donor, view our FAQ for donors.

You can also contact us directly by using this Form