Charity Navigator

Rating: 3.33 stars   21 reviews

Issues: Human Services, Philanthropy

Location: 139 Harristown Road Suite 201 Glen Rock NJ 07452 USA

Mission: Founded in 2001, Charity Navigator has become the nation’s largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities. In our quest to help donors, our team of professional analysts has examined tens of thousands of non-profit financial documents. As a result, we know as much about the true fiscal operations of charities as anyone. We’ve used this knowledge to develop an unbiased, objective, numbers-based rating system to assess the financial health of 5,500 of America’s best-known charities.
Results: Information about our effectiveness and results can be found on our website: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=1113.
Geographic areas served: national

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Community Reviews

Rating: 5 stars   Featured Review

I want my donations to get to the causes and people I care about and Charity Navigator provides a trustworthy, accurate, and easy to use way to do that. Their tools and site are easy to navigate.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

my decisions about donating. It has prevented me from donating to charities that are not reputable or whose overhead prohibits my donation from direct service.

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every six months

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010-3-01

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Rating: 1 stars  

I decided to make a donation to a charity for personal reasons and have been considering being a volunteer. When I talked to coworkers about this, one of them brought up the "grade" of the charity on Charity Navigator. I immediately went and looked at the grade. Not one to just take stuff on the internet at face value, I started looking into everything.

The site shows the star rating at the top of the page with "overall" as if that is the overall grade for the performance of the charity but when I check into what they are grading, it is only the information on forms the charity has made public. It has nothing to do with what the charity does or accomplishes. There could be a charity lumping tons of money into whatever it is they say they do with no history of doing anything but they get four stars while a charity that has a long history of doing good gets two stars. Or a four star charity may report differently than a two star charity meaning the two star charity may actually be more honest. There is absolutely no way for their formula measure this and there is nowhere on my charity's "grade page" that states the imperfections in the grading system. If they have it hidden somewhere else on the site, it is not good enough because they know most people are going straight to the charity they are looking up thinking they are going to get a clear picture of the charity.

The charity I donated to only has two stars but I know of many great accomplishments it has made. There is nothing about that on the Charity Navigator page. When the average person goes to the page they are going to see the two stars as if that is the definitive, overall grade of the charity when it is not. That is VERY deceiving. I would rather give to a charity that works and is less than perfect under this sites formula than a charity that lumps my money into nothing.

I find it strange that they talk about transparency but they aren't transparent on each charities page to tell people the rating is not based on everything and the grading system isn't perfect. That should be right at the top of each page to let people know they aren't being completely informed. If they are not going to put that at the top of each page, they should take down the word overall. I hope more people realize this because, like my coworker, they may pass up chances of donating to very worthy causes based on the misleading information on this site.

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Review from Guidestar
Rating: 3 stars  

Charity Navigator is good for what I use it for ... namely a quick reference to get a general idea about an organization . Mission statement, pie chart showing how your donations are distributed (ie 89% programs, 6% administrative, etc), and the CEO salary. CN is where I begin, but if I am going to donate, I go over their financials with a fine tooth comb using other resources such as Guidestar.org. On section 7 of the form 990, you can see all significant salaries paid to employees. I disagree with CN star rating system. To me, if CEO's and board members are making enough to buy one Ferrari per year, then it does not meet MY requirements . You need to find out what's important to you, and research, research, research.

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Thank you for your commitment to informed giving and for your interest in Charity Navigator.\nI just wanted to point out two things:\n*You don't have to go to Guidestar to access the Form 990. We have them on our site for all of the 8,000+ charities we rate and the rest of the 1.4 million nonprofits. If it is a charity that we rate, just click on the "IRS" tab. And if it is a group we haven't rated, then you'll find the 990s at the bottom of the org's page on our site.\n*You are correct that we don't 'rate' a CEO's compensation. But we do disclose it on the charity's rating page. We also show if there are other staffers making interesting salaries (such as family or someone making more than the CEO) and if the CEO is getting additional compensation from affiliated organizations. \nAgain, we commend you for your commitment to responsible philanthropy and wish you all the best in your charitable endeavors.

Rating: 1 stars  

I find it strange that That this company says it was incorporated into 2000 yet your Filings with the IRS only started in 2009. the total amount of revenue since it started it says it's a little over 1.3 million and a and that your expenses are 1.1 million. I know that nonprofit companies do not take extra profit and by saying so, employees take their fair pay for hours worked, but the usual greedy corporate hierarchy in nonprofit companies donates the profit after expenses paid. Looking at your numbers, and assumeing the approximate $200 000 revenue was used to pay employee wages, is absolutely confusing and seemingly fraudlant. It shows that two hundred thousand dollars was all the extra revenue in a total of 13 years?!? I find that very hard believe. There something very strange about your numbers and what is really so. $200,000 in 13 years is barely enough to feed one person, nevermind a CEO and a huge list of employees. Either you are lying about the year 2000, the year Charity Navigator was supposedly incorporated, or you are lying about numbers...unless of course your CEO is driving a 1979 plastic tricycle with state of the fart cadmium laced lead pedals made in north korea. Considering its earliest IRS file was in 2009, something seems like BS. You have stolen somebodies idea and are trying to look legit. You must be sweating like a north korean on meth in a tricycle sweatshop in fear of when you will be audited. Time to call the person who has really worked on this for 11 years and tell him to lawyer up.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Admit I stole it and do less time now the later

How does this organization compare with others in the same sector?

Badly

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

A little

Will you recommend this organization to others?

No

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

Was this review helpful? 

Dear Anonymous Reviewer, Charity Navigator was founded in 2001 as a private foundation. Our Form 990-PFs, as far back as 2006, are accessible on our site here: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=931. You'll find our audited financials there as well. And you'll see that we've recently completed our transition to public charity status and as such our most recent Form 990 is not a 990-PF. I'm not sure where you got the information that you quote in your review - which does not make sense at all! Please let us know so that we can properly address your questions and concerns. Sincerely, Charity Navigator

Rating: 1 stars  

I find it disappointing and at the same time extremely surprising that you void charity gift cards only 6 months after purchase. Consumers get better protections today with gift cards, which is certainly one of the lowest standards I can think of. I purchased gift cards for my daughters in the hope of educating them on charitable giving and instead the lesson might have been better titled "caveat emptor". I would encourage your Board to adopt a greater vision for your gift cards; you can do better than Home Depot. Brian Murphy

Will you volunteer or donate to this organization?

Unlikely

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

A lot

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

Was this review helpful? 

Dear Mr. Murphy, I’m sorry to learn that you’ve had a frustrating experience with the Good Card. As you may know, at Charity Navigator we rate the financial health and accountability & transparency of nearly 6,000 charities (for free) to help donors make informed giving decisions. I understand your concern with the Good Card expiration date, but this is not a program of Charity Navigator, but rather Network for Good. We simply post a link to their charitable gift cards for those that are interested in that type of giving opportunity. I recommend that you contact Network for Good directly for assistance. They will be better equipped to address your concerns regarding their Good Cards: http://www.networkforgood.org/about/contact.aspx. I hope that I’ve been able to clarify that the Good Card isn't a product of Charity Navigator. We'd greatly appreciate you reconsidering your review of our organization since your complaint wasn't with our free, trusted and objective rating service. Sincerely, ~Charity Navigator Staff

Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 5 stars  

1 person found this review helpful

I became a Charity Navigator site visitor, and ultimately, a registered user in December of 2010, before making annual contributions to several causes that are important to me. Prior to that, I'd never gone to great lengths to vet the charities to which I'd donated. Now, I had access to a world of information that enabled me to do just that -- quickly, easily and at no cost. As consumers, most of us do a fair amount of -- if not extensive -- research on everything from cars to hotels to medical professionals before making purchasing decisions. (And we often pay for memberships in organizations that compile ratings to help us make those decisions.) It makes sense to approach our charitable giving with the same level of diligence, especially given the current economic climate. My experience with Charity Navigator impressed me so much that I became a volunteer in March 2011. Since that time, I've seen first hand how much work and care goes into evaluating each rated charity and to continuously providing new information to help guide donors. Thanks, Charity Navigator!

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Some

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Quite well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2012

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Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 2 stars  

I have utilized the Charity Navigator for 3 years now. I have in the past been very pleased with the capabilities of this site to help me make crucial donating decisions. However this year I am not able to get the comparison or the move function to work. This makes the site totally worthless for my purposes. I am disappointed especially after having told numerous friends about my delight with CN. I hope this issue is resolved soon.

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?

None

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?

Unlikely

How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Somewhat badly

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

Was this review helpful? 

Dear Linda Bacci, First, we want to thank you for your interest in our work, for using our site and for sharing it with your friends. More importantly, we commend your commitment to responsible and informed giving! Second, we apologize that you were unable to compare charities to one another. There are several ways to compare charities on our site which is explained here: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=484#6. We also demonstrated this function in a recent webinar. You can view that here: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=1372 (go to 7 minutes and 30 seconds and also 12 minutes into the discussion to see the parts about comparing charities.) Third, we’d be happy to answer your questions about how to ‘move’ a charity if you could contact us to clarify what you are experiencing. You can reach us here: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=459. Finally, please know that at Charity Navigator we are committed to continuous improvement (it is one of our core values: http://www.kenscommentary.org/2008/08/core-values-are-not-just-sign-on-wall.html). So, we value feedback such as yours as it helps us improve our service and make our site more user-friendly. Best wishes in all your charitable endeavors. Charity Navigator

Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 4 stars  

This is a great site that aims to help eliminate some of the confusion that can surround attempting to find a reputable charity. It definitely fills a void, as I didn't see any other sites out there that are so professionally run, and detailed. The info listed here can be a bit overwhelming, but the site at least makes an attempt to mitigate that through tutorials and other help screens. One quick complaint though... when you go to make a donation through this site, they take you to a different site - Network for Good, where you need to use a different login. So you can setup all your charities here, but when you go to give, you will need to set them all up again on the Network for Good site.

Will you volunteer or donate to this organization?

Definitely

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

A lot

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

Was this review helpful? 

Dear Kevin Kauffman, Thank you for your interest in Charity Navigator and for your kind words about our service! We also appreciate you taking the time to share your constructive criticism about the donation experience. We 100% agree with your concerns. And we are working with Network For Good to implement their API so that the user experience will be much improved. Once that integration is completed, the process will require just one login on our site and it will appear to be a more seamless transaction (rather than a hand-off as it stands now). We’re working to have that up and running by the end of 2012. So, stay tuned! Best wishes in all your charitable endeavors, Charity Navigator

Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 2 stars  

Your reviews are no longer accurate. There is an electronic blockade of accepting reviews from charity donors and current reviews cannot be given. With many more charities depending on corporate funding to stay afloat, their priorities are shifting. Donors who know the truth are pulling back and supporting groups with more integrity. They want to warn and direct potential donors about the truth of some of the charities, but the reviews are not being posted. I know a number of people who have gotten frustrated and quit trying after 30 minutes, several attempts, failing to reach you, etc.

How would you describe the help you got from this organization?

A little

How likely are you to recommend this organization to a friend?

Unlikely

How do you feel you were treated by this organization?

Somewhat badly

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

Was this review helpful? 

Dear Paul Sundmark, Thank you so much for taking the time to share your concerns with the functionality of the GreatNonprofits’ write a review tool on our site. We are very sorry that you didn’t have a completely user-friendly experience when attempting to write a review. Please understand that another organization, GreatNonprofits, runs the review tool which appears on many different websites, one of them being Charity Navigator. And, you should know that the review data does not have any impact on our star ratings. We simply provide the reviews for interested donors who want to read about other people’s experiences with different charities. We have recently become aware that a few individuals, such as you, have had problems publishing their reviews. You should know that there is nothing sinister going on here- no one is trying to block anyone’s feedback! In fact, the opposite is true. We do everything we can to encourage all different types of stakeholders to contribute their feedback. Since becoming aware of the log in problems, we have consulted with GreatNonprofits’ technology folks. I’m pleased to tell you that we’ve found a resolution to the problem. Both teams are working diligently and we expect to have a fix in place within a few days. Again, we do apologize for the inconvenience and I hope you will continue to use Charity Navigator’s free site to make informed giving choices. Sincerely, Charity Navigator Staff

Review from CharityNavigator
Rating: 1 stars  

I am wondering how many of these charities have accurate financial information posted here because I noticed that Catholic Charities was rated four stars with no listed government contributions which I know for a fact is completely untrue. In addition to most of the food they give away being USDA or local food banks there are many program fees charged by them which is why courts have found that restricting adoptions on their part for any reason including sexual orientation is illegal. Wisconsin recently canceled their 32 million dollar per year contract with the Catholic church for this reason . You can find more accurate information of them in business week than on Charity Navigator and I find that pretty sorry.
http://www.businessweek.com/print/magazine/content/02_15/b3778004.htm?chan=mz

Will you volunteer or donate to this organization?

Unlikely

How much of an impact do you think this organization has?

None

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

Was this review helpful? 

Dear Jack234, Thank you for your interest in informed giving and for taking the time to write a review of Charity Navigator’s free charity rating service. One of our core values is continuous improvement and feedback from our users is integral to that process. At Charity Navigator, we’ve gone to great lengths to develop an unbiased, objective and transparent rating system that can be used to evaluate the Financial Health and Accountability & Transparency of thousands of charities. We obtain much of the data we use to rate each charity from the Form 990 (annual informational tax return). The Form 990 is completed after an outside auditor has reviewed the charity’s financial performance. The charity’s Board reviews the Form 990 before it is filed and the charity’s top executive signs off on it indicating that the data within the document is factual. The document is then submitted to the IRS (federal charity regulatory office) and also to each and every state charity regulatory office in which the charity solicits donations. We tell you all of that because if you are aware that a charity has mischaracterized their financial position on the Form 990, then you should immediately notify the regulatory agencies that have the power to investigate and prosecute criminal activities (if there have been any). However, we respectfully submit that this might be simply a case of misunderstanding. As the link you shared to BusinessWeek indicates, the Catholic Church is made up of many, many different parts. We only rate a few of its 501 c 3 public charities that are required to file the Form 990. Specifically, we rate 18 Catholic Charities (http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?keyword_list=catholic+charities&nameonly=1&Submit2=GO&bay=search.results&sortby=rtg) and their ratings range from 2-stars (needs improvement) to 4-stars. Obviously, this does not show the complete picture of the Catholic Church as ‘houses of worship’ (including the Salvation Army) are exempt from filing the Form 990. So, while a few of Catholic Charities we rate do not receive money from the government, doesn’t mean that other parts of the Catholic Church do not. In fact, only 5 (http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?keyword_list=catholic+charities&bay=search.results&EIN=&cgid=&cuid=&location=2&stid=&city=&overallrtg=&size=&ceosalary=&scopeid=&gvt=1&Submit=Submit) of the 18 Catholic Charities we rate report no government support. So, in fact, most of the Catholic Charities we rate DO receive government support. We hope that we’ve been able to address your concerns and that we’ve been able to clear up any misinterpretation of our data/ rating system. We thank you for your obvious commitment to responsible and informed giving and wish you all the best in your charitable endeavors!

Review from CharityNavigator