Charity Navigator: Resources to Find Charitable Causes Worth Supporting Alongside Passionate People

Women's Dating

Charity Navigator: Resources to Find Charitable Causes Worth Supporting Alongside Passionate People

Amber Brooks Amber Brooks • 5/04/17

The Short Version: If you’re looking for a good cause, Charity Navigator has a million of them in a searchable database. Since 2001, the website has offered visitors comprehensive information about charities in the US. The site’s systematic ratings system holds charitable organizations accountable and promotes transparency in the nonprofit sector. A team of analysts objectively reviews the financial standing and ethical practices of around 8,500 nonprofit organizations, so you know which ones you can trust with your donations. Such informational resources give over 7.2 million annual visitors the confidence to contribute to reputable charities where like-minded and passionate people come together. You can use Charity Navigator’s search tools to find a cause worth joining and make a meaningful impact through donations and volunteerism.

One Christmas, I decided to come clean to my boyfriend. “I have no earthly idea what to get you,” I told him. Romantically. I’d already gotten him cologne for his birthday, a polo shirt for Valentine’s Day, and a book for our sixth monthiversary. I was fresh out of ideas.

He suggested donating the money I would’ve spent on his gift to charity. To prove I was just as immaterialistic as he was, I told him to do the same. Neither of us had a particular charity in mind, so we decided to shop around and let it be a surprise. He ended up picking a wildlife conservation group, and I chose a cancer research fund.

Giving to charity in someone else’s name is a touching and generous gesture as well as a great idea for a couple. My boyfriend and I put a lot of thought into which cause would be most meaningful to the other, and it was satisfying to support one another’s interests while doing a good thing.

If you want to donate to a good cause (whether on behalf of a loved one or on your own), but don’t know which one would be best, Charity Navigator can help you find a trustworthy charity worthy of your support. The informational website evaluates thousands of charities based on their financial documents and governing practices.

Screenshot of Charity Navigator's homepage

Charity Navigator helps donors browse top charities and give to a nonprofit they can trust.

Since 2001, Charity Navigator has highlighted millions of upstanding and effective nonprofits across the US. The site’s search tools and top 10 lists allow you to find a local, national, or global charity whose cause is close to your heart and where your time and money will have the greatest impact.

Charity Navigator lists charities of all types — from disaster relief to military family support — and directs visitors toward networks of generous people united by a common cause.

“Essentially, we are the Consumer Reports in the nonprofit sector. We exist to help donors find charities they can trust and support,” said Sandra Minniutti, Vice President of Marketing at Charity Navigator.

Founded by a Generous Married Couple in 2001

Longtime donors Pat and Marion Dugan frequently gave money to good causes but soon began questioning if they were making legitimate and worthwhile investments. Sometimes charitable organizations ended up being fraudulent or ineffective, and the philanthropic couple didn’t want to waste their money by giving to groups that didn’t truly support the ideals they cherished.

Photo of Pat and Marion Dugan, Founders of Charity Navigator

Pat and Marion Dugan founded Charity Navigator to bring donors greater peace of mind.

In 2001, Pat and Marion launched Charity Navigator to empower people to donate their money based on fact instead of feeling. They collected information about charities across the US and compiled it in a comprehensive database online. Pat and Marion believed an unbiased and transparent resource, like Charity Navigator, could give potential donors and volunteers more peace of mind when giving back to a nonprofit.

“We had to start from scratch,” Pat recalled. “We started building an organization to fulfill this idea I had of providing usable information to people who were interested in giving money to a charity and wanted to be more knowledgeable about it.”

Today Charity Navigator has become the largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities in the United States. Expert analysts examine tens of thousands of documents to provide fair assessments of how effectively a charity manages its money.

According to the website’s timeline, Charity Navigator was “founded under the simple premise that people are amazingly generous and enjoy helping others but are not always sure how to go about it.”

The Rating System Analyzes 8,500 of the Largest Charities in the US

More than a million charities have a description page on Charity Navigator, but only a select few have been assessed and vetted by the site’s analysts. Their rating system, updated annually, presents an in-depth look at a charity’s financial portfolio, programs, and trustworthiness.

Photo of the Charity Navigator logo

Charity Navigator has over 650,000 registered users following its reviews.

Currently, Charity Navigator has rated about 8,500 charities. These far-reaching and trustworthy organizations are among the largest nonprofits in the country. In the rating profile, donors can view the financial standing of charitable foundations across the US.

The site rates charities on a scale from zero to four and recommends which ones can be trusted based on their IRS 990 forms. Charity Navigator incorporates the public information on this form to obtain financial information on thousands of charities. They make a rating based on the organization’s transparency, fairness, stability, and ethical standards.

You can see metrics like the company’s fundraising expenses and total revenue. Learning more about a charity is a responsible way to ensure your funds go to a good cause.

Charity Navigator also takes note of the nonprofit’s donor privacy policy in the ratings. According to the site, “Donors have expressed extreme concern about the use of their personal information by charities.” Sometimes donor contact information is shared with other organizations leading to a barrage of unsolicited donation requests in your inbox or voicemail. If your chosen charity has an unfavorable privacy policy, you may want to donate anonymously using Charity Navigator’s Gift Basket feature.

By reporting on a variety of governing practices, Charity Navigator holds charities accountable and endorses those with ethical practices. You can check out the team’s expert advice on how to protect yourself from online scams while still contributing to worthwhile causes including education, community development, and the environment.

“There are literally a million charities in America right now,” said Sandra. “We have a page of information on all of them, but we only rate the big ones, the ones our analysts and members identify as good candidates for our rating system.”

Over 7.5 Million Annual Visitors Connect Through Volunteerism

Supporting worthy causes is easy thanks to the resources available on Charity Navigator. Donors and volunteers can use the site to find reputable charities that match their interests. Over the years, Charity Navigator has had great success connecting people and organizations. The site sees more than 7.5 million visitors a year and has facilitated $19 million in donations via the site’s Giving Basket.

Want to give more than just your money? You can search for charities by location to find a nonprofit near you and find out how to volunteer there. Charity Navigator offers a guide to volunteering for any first-timers. The article’s advice includes examining the nonprofit’s financial health, evaluating its programs, and quantifying what you can offer as a volunteer.

Screenshot of Charity Navigator's advanced search

Charity Navigator’s advanced search tools let you narrow charities by location, rating, category, scope, and keywords.

If you’re interested in getting more heavily involved in a particular charity, volunteering gives you the opportunity to make a positive impact on your community and meet an assortment of passionate and selfless people in the process. When you’re working with caring individuals who believe in the same ideals you do, it’s easy to make fast friends.

“Volunteering is a wonderful way to apply our methodology on a local level,” Sandra said. “You can use our site to assess the performance of charities before giving them your time.”

In your search for common causes to follow and support, Charity Navigator helps you make sure you’re spending your time wisely at places that truly need and deserve such help.

Find a Good Place to Spend Your Money & Time on Charity Navigator

Charity comes from the heart. It reveals what we care about and what we’re willing to give. My boyfriend’s kindness and altruism certainly made an impression on me that Christmas, and giving back to something greater than ourselves made us feel closer as a couple.

If you feel passionate about a particular cause, getting involved in charity work is an excellent way to connect with people on a deeper level and be a force for positive change in the world.

Charity Navigator helps kindhearted people join other donors to make an impact in causes that resonate with them. In its extensive database, the website evaluates the important qualities of thousands of charities and provides expert ratings so you can make an informed decision about where to spend your time and dollars.

“Charity Navigator helps charities highlight the impact they’re having,” Sandra said. “The heart of our culture is the desire to help charitable organizations succeed and help donors turn their precious dollars into action and get the intended result.”