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The team from Charity Navigator, the nation's largest independent charity evaluator and leading donor advocate, shares their thoughts on emerging nonprofit-sector issues and offers tips to better inform your intelligent giving decisions.

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Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Importance of Objectivity in Charity Evaluations


Charity Navigator is an objective charity evaluator, in that we apply our standard methodology to assess two areas of performance: the first being financial health, and the second being accountability and transparency (or governance). Ratings are given to all organizations that meet our criteria for an evaluation, irrespective of a charity's mission and without bias. 

You may be thinking, “How can you be a ‘navigator’ if you do not rate a charity’s mission or its values?”

This sentiment has been echoed by a handful of donors, and we think it’s important to clear the air...


At Charity Navigator, we do help our users navigate the nonprofit sector with our ratings, but we do not do so by imposing our opinions and judgments regarding organizational purpose and mission through our ratings.

Why not? Well, much like politics, nonprofit organizations can be polarizing. Organizational voices vary greatly on any given issue, as do the voices of charitable givers. An organization that one person thinks is great may be one that another person despises. To some extent, our giving decisions are subject to our personal values. This is to be expected, but at the individual donor level, rather than from an objective assessor.

Charity Navigator is a respected authority in the nonprofit space because we do not operate with bias. We are committed to remaining objective so that charities and donors alike can find value in our resources — regardless of where they may stand on social or political issues. Thus, our rating methodology is impartial, too. Our Financial Health metrics are based on numerical equations, and the Accountability & Transparency metrics are based on a standard binary system, where there are two possible outcomes (e.g. a charity has a whistleblower policy or it does not).

On issues related to charity misconduct or illicit activities, Charity Navigator’s Advisory Issuance Committee evaluates publicly available data and information against a standardized rubric to identify the level of offense and votes to confirm posting a CN Advisory on the organization in question. Like our evaluation process, this mechanism was designed to eliminate bias by assessing all organizations against the same framework regardless of their size, scope, mission, political connections, etc. 

It is ultimately up to our users to form their own opinions about the actual content of an organization's mission and programs, which often helps to finalize a decision about which organizations to support. We suggest reviewing charities’ programs on their websites to get more detail on how they are working towards their mission. This will help you to understand their charitable work and to see if you are personally aligned with an organization. For instance, if there are two similar organizations with great scores, you may ask, “Which one has programs that more closely align with my own objectives?” This answer can, and will, look different for everyone. 

We do not attempt to evaluate charities' missions or values because this would call into question our objectivity and threaten our neutrality. Rather, we offer our ratings as one point of information donors can use when making a decision of whether or not to support an organization. We believe that donors should use our ratings as a complement to their own research and due diligence before making a giving decision.

So, yes, true to our name, we are very much a “navigator.” A compass directs its user by providing orientation relative to geographic points, much like how Charity Navigator provides our users with an objective rating system to help them gauge and navigate the nonprofit sector relative to one’s personal preferences. It is important to note that the relationship works two ways: while the compass offers guidance to the user, ultimately, the user is directing the compass. The compass provides a tool for getting somewhere that the user ultimately chooses to go.

At Charity Navigator, we strive to provide charitable givers with the right tools (the “compass” if you will) to make informed giving decisions. Our methodology conveys important information regarding organizations’ financial health and accountability and transparency practices. However, it is up to our users to make the final decision by evaluating programs based on their own values and unique objectives. Ultimately: only you can decide which highly-rated organizations tug at your heartstrings and most adequately reflect the voice you want to raise, and the impact you want to support. 

Written by Marisa Andreazza, Associate Program Analyst at Charity Navigator.


As a 501 (c) (3) organization itself, Charity Navigator depends on public support to help donors make informed choices. Please consider investing in the future of Charity Navigator by making a donation today.   Donate now >> 

7 comments:

chaosmanor said...

An excellent analysis: thank you!

GVLC6 said...

Well said - this is why we trust Charity Navigator.

JFT said...

Unfortunately your mission cannot be fulfilled unless you begin to identify and rank the fundraisers used by each charity. Their junk mail and over solicitation often undermines the very goals of the Charity they purport to represent. Jim Thorpe

Unknown said...

THANK YOU! This is very helpful.

COLMAN SCOT said...

THANK YOU FOR YOUR POSTING THAT IS PART OF WHY I VALUE YOUR ORGANIZATION SO MUCH- OVER THE YEARS YOU'VE HELPED ME MAKE SOME GOOD, INFORMED DECISIONS(HOPEFULLY)- BECUASE, WHEN ALL IS SAID AND DONE IT COMES TO: HOPE, FAITH, AND TRUST IN THE ORGANIZATION THAT YOU ARE SENDING $ OR WHATEVER HELP YOU ARE PROVIDING THAT IT WILL ALL GET TO THE PEOPLE THAT NEED IT THE MOST. I'VE HAD A VERY DIFFICULT TIME DECIDING WHO TO GIVE MY HELP TO BECAUSE I WOULD LIKE SOME ASSURANCES THAT IT GETS TO THE PEOPLE ON THE GROUND; AT THE LOWEST LEVEL AND SADLY MANY TIMES IT DOES NOT. SO, IF THERE WAS SOME WAY TO GET THE ORGANIZATIONS TO BE MORE SPECIFIC IN DESCRIBING THEIR MISSION AND BE LESS GENERAL IT WOULD REALLY HELP ME, AND MOST LIKELY A LOT OF OTHER PEOPLE. CASE IN POINT: CHEF ANDRE'- HE GOES TO THE TROUBLE SPOT TO COOK FOOD FOR THE PEOPLE IN THE DISASTER AREA -IN 24 HRS. PEOPLE ARE BEING FED AND THINGS TAKE OFF FROM THERE. I WOULD LIKE TO BE ABLE TO SEND $ TO AN ORGANIZATION THAT DIRECTLY HELPS IN OTHER WAYS LIKE $ FOR A NEW TARP TO COVER THEIR ROOF, CLOTHES, TOOLS, ETC. I'VE BEEN ABLE TO SINGLE OUT ONE FAMILY AND HELP GET THEM BACK ON THEIR FEET, AND THEN THEY ARE ABLE TO HELP OTHER FAMILIES. I'VE ALSO SENT MEESAGES TO ORGANIZATIONS ASKING THEM TO SEND THE NAME OF A FAMILY AND I WOULD STICK WITH THEM FOR WHATEVER TIME TIME IT TAKES TO GET BACK ON THEIR FEET-AND I'VE RECEIVED NO REPLY. TO THIS DAY I FIND TRYING FIND A GOOD ORGANIZATION IN PUERTO RICO THAT OPERATES ON THE LOCAL LEVEL, AND WHERE I CAN HAVE EVEN A LITTLE HOPE THAT THE $ IS GOING TO THE RIGHT PLACE IMPOSSIBLE, AND I'M EMBARRASSED BECUASE I'M NOT SEEING THAT WORDS IN THEIR MISSION DESCRIPTION- AND, THEN, THE GOVERNOR RESIGNS BECUASE OF CORRUPTION AND GOD KNOWS WHAT ELSE HAPPENED OR SHOULD HAVE TAKEN PLACE THAT DID NOT- AND, I'VE STILL NOT SENT ANYTHING- BUT I'VE GIVEN UP - I WILL FIND SOMEONE TO GET BACK UP AND THEN SOME BECAUSE I WAS TAUGHT TO ALWAYS SHARE AND HELP NO MATTER I HAD BECAUSE THERE IS ALWAYS SOMEONE MUCH WORSE OFF THAN YOU.

Unknown said...

Is there a site the I can see the percentage of dollar donated that goes to charity work?

Unknown said...

Amen, JFT. We receive at least 5 requests for money daily. They pay no attention to requests to remove from donor lists. Annoying and a waste of their money!! Kay Ellis