7 Websites for Informed Giving

If you’re still considering where to give your end-of-year donations, the websites listed below can help you decide where your gifts will do the most good.

Some of the sites focus on a charity’s financial record, which you can gauge using Form 990, an annual report that the IRS requires for certain tax exempt organizations. Others, such as the Better Business Bureau’s Give.org, evaluate a broader range of criteria, including overall effectiveness.

For more information on evaluating charities, read the Federal Trade Commission’s article, Before Giving to a Charity, or ProPublica’s article, How to Vet Nonprofits Before You Give.

1. Charity Navigator

Search for ratings on public charities that qualify as tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3). The ratings are based on financial health and transparency, focusing on a charity’s efficiency, sustainability, and “level of commitment to good governance, best practices, and openness with information.” Find helpful articles and guides to charitable giving.

Sample pie chart of a charity's expenses on Charity Navigator.
A sample pie chart of a charity’s expenses breakdown on Charity Navigator.

2. CharityWatch

CharityWatch prides itself on their in-depth analysis and independence. Read more about their criteria and methodology on their website. Membership to access all of CharityWatch’s 600 charity ratings is $50 a year. However, non-members can access the detailed reports of the top-rated charities.

A sample chart from Charity Watch.
A sample chart from Charity Watch.

3. Give.org

Search for local and national charities rated by the Better Business Bureau according to 20 Standards of Charity Effectiveness. Read articles about giving wisely. File a complaint about a charity.

Screenshot of a BBB charity rating.
Screenshot of a BBB rating for the Primate Rescue Center in Nicholasville, KY.

4. GiveWell

GiveWell recommends only a few charities using specific criteria: evidence of effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, room for more funding, and transparency. All the recommended charities serve the global poor and are thoroughly researched by GiveWell. Donate directly to the charities, or donate to GiveWell and allow them to distribute the money as they think best.

5. Great Nonprofits

This website features reviews from both those who have volunteered or donated to the charities and from those who have benefited from their services. Search for charities by cause or location.

A sample review of the Nicholasville based charity One Horse at a Time.
A sample review of the Nicholasville-based charity One Horse at a Time.

6. IRS Exempt Organizations Select Check

Check this database from the IRS to make sure your donations are tax exempt. 

7. Non-Profit Explorer from ProPublica

This database from independent, nonprofit newsroom ProPublica includes summary data processed by the IRS from 2012-2016. It links to PDFs of Form 990s where possible, in some cases going all the way back to 2001.

A sample of ProPublica's summary data.
A sample of ProPublica’s summary data.

Books on Giving