Navigating the Charity Galaxy

Charity Navigator ( claims to be the nation’s largest charity evaluator, examining the efficiency and financial health of some 5,500 U.S.-based charities.

Its stated goal is to help donors make an informed choice about a charity by promoting accountability and transparency among aid organizations and other charities and by evaluating their efficiency and organizational capacity, their ability to sustain programs over time.

The website includes numerous features, tips and resources (“Tips for Giving in a Time of Crisis,” “Tips for Older Donors”), top-ten lists (“Ten Slam-Dunk Charities,” “Ten Inefficient Fundraisers”), blogs, and lists of newly added charities.

One characteristic feature is called “Six Questions to Ask Charities before Donating.” The questions are:

1. Can the charity clearly communicate who it is and what it does?

2. Can the charity define its short-term and long-term goals?

3. Can the charity tell you the progress it has made (or is making) toward its goal?

4. Do the charity’s programs make sense to you?

5. Can you trust the charity?

6. Are you willing to make a long-term commitment to the charity?

Regarding question six, Charity Navigator explains: “We like to think of giving to charity as a long-term commitment, more akin to marriage than dating. Intelligent giving is motivated by altruism, knowledge, and perspective, not a knee-jerk reaction to a television commercial. … Ask yourself if your charity is the type of organization to which you’re willing to make a long-term commitment. When you do this, you agree to support them through good times and bad, and provide the funding it needs to weather economic downturns. In return, it promises to continue working toward addressing the issue you both think is so vital. Look hard and find an organization you can support for many years to come.”