What Do Charity Ratings Mean?

Connecting with a charity is a little like dating and trying to find the perfect match. There are many things that go into a great match—a great connection, overall chemistry and trust, for example.

Likewise, when researching charities, it is important to ask: Is this the right charity for my donation? How do I know where my money is going? How can I trust them to use my donation wisely? While this can be overwhelming initially, a little research can help you find the perfect non-profit partner.  

Where do I start my research on a charity?

Fortunately, there are many excellent rating sites that can help you determine how a charity is rated and provide more details on individual nonprofits. Reliable charity ratings site options include:

If you spend a few minutes visiting these sites, you can quickly and easily research charities of all sizes and interests to better determine the ideal fit for your donation.

What do charity ratings mean?

Although charities are rated in different ways on each site, most are looking at the following factors:

  • Financials – does the charity spend its funds honestly and prudently?
  • Accountability – does the organization explain its actions clearly and in-depth?
  • Transparency – does the charity disclose where donations go and share critical data with the public?
  • Governance – is there an independent board?
  • Impact and results – does the charity measure and report concrete results for their programs on people’s lives?

The charity rating sites can help you sift through the factors that are most meaningful to you or your organization, so you can pinpoint nonprofits that closely match your priorities and overall company mission and goals.

Are all charities rated?

Not every charity is necessarily rated on every site. Each site has specific criteria for how they rate a charity and what their rating is based on. Most sites use a charity’s IRS Form 990, which is filed by nonprofit organizations that are exempt from income tax. This public form shares financial information as well as supplemental schedules—which include compensation information, noncash contributions, and financial statements—and is used by rating sites as part of their basis for rating.

If a rating doesn’t exist for the charity you’re searching, you can check the IRS Tax Exempt Organization page to find their financial reports.

Finding your perfect match

When you donate to a charity that matches your interests and priorities, as well as one that is highly rated by trustworthy organizations, you will have the peace of mind in knowing that your donation is going to improve, change, or save lives.

To find the right fit for your donation, it is important to do your own research. First-hand knowledge is always worth the time it takes to gather it. In addition, make sure you look at more than one rating site in order to see the full picture of a charity. Feel free to reach out to organizations and ask questions, clarify information, and create a more personal connection.

Finally, it is important to seek charities that are transparent and that have a mission that aligns with what you are seeking. The good news is there are many amazing charities across the globe and chances are, you will find your perfect match!

Learn more about National Breast Cancer Foundation’s ratings:


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