If memory serves, I believe CN became a 501-c-3 in 2012. On March 24, 2013 their website stated that the reason they didn't rate themselves was because they only rate charities that have 5 years of data. On Sept 17, 2014 they changed it to 7 tears of data. It appears CN is avoiding rating themselves because the data would appear to net them a less than stellar rating. One wonders that when the 7 year date nears will they change it to 10 years of data needed?
Thank you for using Charity Navigator's free website and for taking the time to share your feedback. The reason we do not rate ourselves is correct - we haven't operated as a 501 c 3 public charity long enough to qualify for a rating. This is the same standard we apply to all the charities that we rate: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=32. And I'm sorry you got the impression that we are increasing the number years of data needed in order to somehow avoid rating ourselves. That's not true at all. In fact, we've been working with charities, nonprofit accountants, industry experts, academics and others to upgrade our financial metrics. One idea that everyone agrees on is using 3 year averaging. And knowing that this a change to our methodology that we would be adopting, for several years now we've been collecting at least 7 years of data for each charity that we rate. You can read an update on the proposed changes to our financial metrics on our site here: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=1964. And, although we do not yet rate ourselves, our financial data is accessible on our site here: http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=931. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any additional questions.
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.
Dear Angelcares, Thank you for your interest in informed giving and for taking the time to review our organization. I’m sorry that you felt we were being anything but 100% transparent about how we rate charities and what is/isn’t part of our system. We’ve gone to great lengths to be very clear on the charity’s ratings pages exactly what we measure and how we do it. And, the methodology section of our site, http://www.charitynavigator.org/methodology, includes even more details on our system. Included there, is a whole page devoted to what our ratings mean, http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=43, and how donors should utilize our service. But given your feedback, we will look into making this information even more readily available to the users of our site. Please know that we’ve never said that our ratings are the final say on a charity’s worthiness of support. But we do believe that financially strong, accountable and transparent charities are better positioned to execute effective programs and services. As far as why don’t we rate each charity’s impact? I’m sure you can understand that developing a universal, unbiased, objective rating system that evaluates the quality of a charity’s programs, that is scalable in a way that would enable us to apply it to the thousands of charities we rate and that wouldn’t inflict burdensome reporting requirements on the charities, is challenging to say the least. That said, knowing what a charity has accomplished is a critical step; after all, the charity's ability to bring about long lasting and meaningful change in the world is the key reason for their existence and for a donor’s support. As such, it is our goal to expand our rating system to include an assessment of each charity’s Results Reporting - the way charities come to know, use and share their results with stakeholders including donors. We are in the R&D phase of our Results Reporting methodology and expect this phase to continue for another year or so. If you have any additional thoughts, suggestions or concerns, then I hope you will not hesitate to contact us directly (www.charitynavigator.org) . Best wishes in all your charitable endeavors!
Review from Guidestar
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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!
Review from CharityNavigator
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
I have been a board member for several years and can tell you that Charity Navigator is making a serious difference. The staff is dedicated, hardworking, and passionate about the mission, and the web site helps steer donors away from bad non-profits. While the rating system continues to evolve, Charity Navigator has helped bring needed transparency and accountability to the non-profit world.
I recently met an individual who works in nonprofit management. When I mentioned that I was a former staff member of Charity Navigator, his immediate response was, "We are so impressed by the sheer number of evaluations you guys complete - you must have a hundred people on staff!" In reality, at the time I was working, we had 11 staff members. But with those 11 staffers, we were able to post hundreds of new reviews each month - keeping donors informed and ensuring they had access to current information about their favorite nonprofit(s). The evaluation system is highly efficient thanks to a consistent review process and custom technology, and I can say first-hand that the analysts are also incredibly precise and fair. Charity Navigator also serves as a go-to resource for individuals, donors, and the media with questions about giving, philanthropy trends, or individual organizations. By providing an unbiased, easy-to-understand perspective on the nonprofit world, Charity Navigator helps millions of generous individuals give wisely and with confidence. Simply put, Charity Navigator is a remarkable organization does a lot with a little. They inform and educate millions of donors and promote transparency and accountability to make sure other great nonprofits are given the resources and support they deserve.
I was pulled into Charity Navigator by its founders, Pat and Marion Dugan--an extraordinarily generous and visionary couple. I quickly became engrossed in its mission and have used my experience running a non-profit to help make it into an institution that will deepen its ability to serve donors. It's simply a terrific organization with brilliant staff and a devoted Board.
I've been involved with Charity Navigator since its inception, first as its PR counsel and, most recently, as a board member. CN more than fills the void in the non-profit world for an objective voice in determining what charities are most responsible with their donors' money -- it's grown into a conscience for the industy and its mere presence helps other 501(c)3's toe the line.
I first approached Charity Navigator during the early stages of www.grabthetorch.org my goal was to present my business plan, financial parameters, overall strategy and to ask every possible question about best practices in the new world of non-profit management and transparency. I wanted to set a clear course for GTT. The objective to establish high standards and goals that follow the CN rating system. It seemed better to listen to the experts and be pro-active from inception, rather than receive a rating that would affect our reputation and limit our fund-raising capacity. Ken Berger invited me to his office and provided unlimited time and guidance. Our meeting was comfortable and informative. It also gave me an opportunity to establish a dialogue with Mr. Berger to get involved with GTT and share his wisdom with our campers and the upcoming generation of non-profit leadership and civic involvement. CN’s presentations at our summer camps has elevated our curriculum and programs. Several of our speakers and panelists were exposed to CN during our summer camps and now use CN as preferred rating system in their operations. We now use CN was a reference tool for our campers to evaluate non-profits. We believe that CN plays an incredibly important role in guiding donors and other funding resources during this new wave of fiscal transparency. We also believe that every non-profit should be reviewed on a case by case basis and that it’s the responsibility of all potential donors to conduct several layers of research.
At a time of a depressed economy, scarce resources and a steady stream of stories about abuses in spending at nonprofits (particularly politically connected ones) the need for a source like Charity Navigator is greater than ever. CN is the ONLY place where donors can get completely unbiased analysis and ratings of nonprofits and of their spending. And with the announced expansion of their system to include Accountability and Performance, CN is poised to be the best in the business. I strongly endorse Charity Navigator.
Charity Navigator provides high quality, timely, comprehensive and well designed information that has helped me do high level comparative analyses of different non-profits. This is necessary for me to deliver significant recommendations that affect my client's strategic and tactical decisions.
I was in the office about three days a week and although it's not huge they get a lot of work done. I observed that whenever the phone would ring someone immediately picked it up and would help the caller with their question(be it another charity wondering about their rating or the general public.) I think they are doing important work to help the users to decide where to donate so that the money is used properly.
Charity Navigator was a really friendly work environment. It was a small office with a great sense of community. The only potential negative was that, being so small, I didn't perceive a lot of room for advancement for a career-minded person, but I absolutely enjoyed working there. Regarding the rating system, it's about as fair a system as I can possibly conceive of. The processes in place for the staff would make it impossible to sway a rating, not that any of them would if they could. You can find examples of all types of charities, small or large, volunteer or corporate-style, religious and secular, that get high ratings because they're working well with the resources that they have. It's true that the ratings only address the financial picture. Charity Navigator openly acknowledges the inherent limitations of its ratings and freely encourages donors to use this information as a part of the decision to give. I think they do a fantastic job.