Tips for Evaluating a Charity
Summary reports are available for each charity or
public safety group found as a result of a
Search for Registered Charities, Public Safety Organizations, and Professional
Fundraisers on this website. These reports can be obtained by clicking on
the organization's name.
While a review of the information in each report
can be a starting point for evaluating a charity, we encourage you to do further
research. You may want to look at the information returns: IRS Forms 990,
990-EZ, or 990-PF filed by most publicly supported charities and all
foundations. These reports contain more detailed information on finances,
governance and management policies, and compensation of the officers and
directors, along with the highest paid employees and contractors. You can find
these IRS returns at websites such the
Center for Charitable Statistics,
Economic Research Institute, and
Guidestar, or our office can provide them.
In addition, our office can make available the
audited or reviewed financial statements that larger organizations are required
to file. You may also wish to consider a charity rating organization such as the
Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide or
Charity Navigator, among others. These organizations have websites which
compare, evaluate, or rate larger charities according to their own selected
Many experts agree that a donor should not base a
decision on whether to give to a charity solely on financial ratios. A
single year's financial data may not present a complete picture of a charity.
For example, there may be large expenditures in a particular year that would
enhance the efficiency of the organization in the long run, one-time fundraising
costs to attract new donors, or start-up costs for newer organizations.
Further, you should be careful about comparing financial ratios of charities
dissimilar in purpose or size.
Financial data, while helpful, may not be a true
measure of a charity's achievements and effectiveness. A description of the
charity's accomplishments, future plans, and other useful information may be
provided on its website.
In addition, directly contacting the organization
with questions can also be a valuable research tool. Since transparency is one
of the attributes of a responsible charity, organizations should be willing to
answer questions about both their charitable program and finances.
Finally, most organizations need
volunteers as well as your donation. This can also be a way to learn about a
charity's effectiveness while providing a needed service.