024 DGM – How to Find a Top-Rated Charity Doing Work You Care About — in 3 Minutes

How to Find a Top-Rated Charity Doing Work You Care About — in 3 Minutes

Welcome. This is the podcast that helps you do good even better — regardless of which charities or causes you support. 

This is Ed Long. Each week on this podcast I talk about charities and provide actionable tips to help donors and volunteers to take their philanthropy to the next level and do good even better.

Give smart from your heart, because doing good matters.


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Episode sponsor

  • Today’s sponsor is the number 36.
    • Our sponsors don’t pay us anything. But they give us a way to talk about a different charity-related concept each week. And help you and me grow our understanding of nonprofits and charities
    • 36 is the number of charity focus categories used by CharityWatch.org, one of the two charity rating organizations I’m talking about today.
    • Back in episode #6 I told you about the National Center for Charitable Statistics. Its system uses 25 major categories and 619 more focused categories

Main topic

  • How to Find a Top-Rated Charity Doing Work You Care About — in 3 Minutes
    • BackgroundTop Rated Charity
      • CharityWatch.org is a “charity watchdog” group that provides ratings from “A+” down to “F” on 600+ charities. I wish they had the resources to cover more. They have a strong focus on whether charities are inflating their program spending percentages by reporting fundraising spending as program spending. They reduces grades for charities with large asset reserves. I did my own review of CharityWatch.org back in June 2013.
      • CharityNavigator.org is a “charity evaluator” that provides ratings from “4 Stars” down to “0 Stars” (plus a “no rating” status for charities with a “Donor Advisory”) on 7,000+ large U.S. charities. I wish they had the resources to cover more. They provide a user-friendly resource for individuals, with expanded data available once you sign up for a free account. CharityNavigator.org’s ratings focus on two broad areas of performance: Financial Health (spending, fundraising efficiency, revenue and expense growth, working capital) and Accountability & Transparency. I did my own review of CharityNavigator.org back in June 2013.
      • Today we’re looking for top-rated charities. CharityNavigator.org and CharityWatch.org can also be useful in checking if a charity gets a low rating from either rating organization.
      • If you are looking for ratings of large, national charities, CharityWatch.org and CharityNavigator.org are a good place to go. Their ratings reflect the results of each organization’s review methodology. Use the ratings as a tool, but do your own analysis.
      • Keep in mind that there are more than 280,000 nonprofits recognized by the IRS report annual revenues of $100,000 or more. So CharityNavigator.org (the organization with more ratings, having about about 7,000) is covering 2.5% or 1 in 40. There are a lot of solid charities out there that aren’t on the radar of either CharityNavigator.org or CharityWatch.org.
      • You can find the annual revenues and assets of every nonprofit recognized by the IRS at CharityCheck101.org.
    • How can you find that big top-rated charity in 3 minutes?
      • It’s time for another 3-minute thrill.
        • Start at CharityWatch.org
          1. Click on the Top Rated link at the top of the page.
          2. Move down on the Top-Rated Charities page.
          3. You’ll see the 36 charity focus areas designated by CharityWatch.org
          4. Click on one focus area.
          5. You’ll go to a list of charities working in that focus area. Each will have a rating of “B” or better.
          6. Select an “A+” charity from the list, if there is none select an “A” charity, if there is none select an “A-” charity.
          7. Write down the name and click on the name (you’ll go to the charity’s website).
            • Keep those two tabs open (the CharityWatch.org list and the charity’s website).
        • Open another tab at CharityNavigator.org
          1. At the top of the page you’ll see a “Charity Search” box.
          2. Enter the name of the charity and click the “GO” button.
          3. Check the search results and find the charity.
          4. If it’s there, click on its name
            • See if it has a “4-Star” rating from CharityNavigator.org.
            • If it has a “4-Star” rating, double check its identity using either the EIN or telephone (you kept its website open in step g above).
          5. If it’s not there, or doesn’t have a “4-Star” rating, go back to CharityWatch.org step f and start again.
        • Charity names can be confusingly similar. Make sure you’ve got an identity match (that CharityWatch.org and CharityNavigator.org are focused about the same charity). Take the EIN from the charity’s CharityNavigator.org report and check it against the charity’s website that you went to in step g. If the EIN doesn’t work out, check the telephone number.
        • Watch me do it in the Charity Sherlock video.
  • Your smart and easy assignment for today
    • Find a big top-rated charity for yourself. Time yourself. You can beat 3 minutes.
  • A big part of giving smart from your heart is knowing how to investigate charities. 
  • Had experiences? Have feedback? Share your thoughts  in the Reply / Comment section at the bottom of the page. Or email me at ed[@]seriousgivers.org

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About Ed Long, the podcaster

Podcaster Ed Long has been preparing more than 40 years to do this podcast. He knows charities and the rules that apply to them. He’s analyzed charity finances and operations.  He’s founded and run charities, and volunteered for them. He’s helped the public and law enforcement fight fake charities, and has served as a philanthropy educator and coach. Before all that he worked as a partner with a major Wall Street law firm. Ed is the founder and CEO of SeriousGivers, which itself is a charity. Ed knows the great work that strong charities can do with the resources entrusted to them, and is passionate about helping others find and support strong charities.