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Resources for checking in on charities

As a business journalist you may be aware of all the ways that you can check in on U.S. charitable organizations to make sure they are, in fact, charitable. However, your average consumer often doesn’t have the same knowledge or interest in perusing a non-profit’s financial statements as you do, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be just as informed. And with the massive backlog at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in processing non-profits’ statements along with individual returns, the normally authoritative IRS tax-exempt organization database might not have the most up-to-date info on charities.

Here are a couple of resources to share with your readers that will help them donate with confidence this year.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance (BBB WGA)

Give.org is run by the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and evaluates charities based on ‘governance, results reporting, finances, and truthful transparent communications.’ Their reports are freely accessible on their website for donors to make informed decisions about who they give to. 

Their website includes evaluations for hundreds of nationally recognizable names and many BBB branches publish reports about local and regional charities on their respective local websites. BBB WGA puts out a Wise Giving Guide magazine three times a year, writes a weekly blog, and compiles an annual survey on donor trust.

BBB WGA labels charities as “nondisclosure charities” if those organizations opt to not share requested information that is used to complete their evaluations, and urges caution to the public about donating to those organizations. Individuals can also inquire or file a complaint about a charity at give.org, and check out their interactive scamtracker for reported scams.

CharityWatch

This is an independent organization (itself a non-profit) that began in 1992 to serve the interests of donors, rather than charities themselves, by providing necessary information to make informed giving decisions and rating charities on a variety of factors. This includes the percentage of expenses spent on programming rather than overhead and professional fundraising expenses.

Check out their top-rated charities, list of top compensation for management, and tips on how to judge a not-for-profit’s financial stability. Additionally, they have a wealth of resources for donors and their own blog with donating tips that may help out you and your readers.

Charity Navigator

Similar to CharityWatch, this non-profit evaluates charities and provides free information to the public on how their donation dollars are being spent. Their website states they have evaluated nearly 200,000 charities in four areas: impact and results, accountability and finance, leadership and adaptability, and culture and community.

They curate lists of the best and most popular charities and issue advisories when a charity is ‘reported to engage or confirmed to have engaged in misconduct or questionable practices.’ This website provides a plethora of donor resources and the organization is an accredited charity through the BBB WGA.

Author

  • Julianne Culey

    Julianne is the Assistant Director of the Reynolds Center with expertise in marketing and communications and holds a master's in Sociology from Arizona State University.

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