CharityWatch—founded in 1992 as the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP)—is America's most independent, assertive charity watchdog. CharityWatch does not merely repeat what a charity reports using simplistic or automated formulas. We dive deep to let you know how efficiently a charity will use your donations to fund the programs you want to support. CharityWatch exposes nonprofit abuses and advocates for your interests as a donor.
CharityWatch researches, writes, publishes, and distributes articles on charitable giving, tips for giving wisely, wrongdoing in the nonprofit sector, synopses of lawsuits involving charities, and general nonprofit news. We publish these on our website and select articles in our biannual paper publication, the Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report.
CharityWatch regularly partners with journalists working nationally, regionally, and locally to contribute financial analysis and other expertise to their investigations into wrongdoing within the nonprofit sector. Journalists investigating charity fraud, misleading marketing or fundraising, diversions of assets, and other wrongdoing at charities are often operating with tiny budgets and limited staff resources. CharityWatch is often the only free resource available to provide them with in-depth analysis and assistance with interpreting nonprofit audited financial statements, IRS tax Forms 990, and fundraising filings. CharityWatch has provided thoughtful commentary to hundreds of media outlets for nearly 30 years on wrongdoing at charities and other issues affecting the nonprofit sector.
CharityWatch works to uncover and report on wrongdoing in the nonprofit sector by conducting in-depth analyses of the audited financial statements, tax forms, fundraising contracts, and other reporting of nonprofits, issuing charity ratings on an "A+" to "F" scale. Unlike many other online sources of charity data that function as crowdsourcing websites or quasi-trade associations for charities, CharityWatch is fully committed to advocating for the interests of the donating public. Our ratings are not derived from algorithms or other largely automated systems that take the reporting of charities at face value without adequate analysis. Charities are not able to "game" the CharityWatch rating system by uploading documents to our website or by simply reporting the same financial activities in different boxes on their tax forms in an attempt to garner favorable ratings. CharityWatch is fiercely independent and does not charge charities to be rated or for the right to promote their ratings.
CharityWatch also works to highlight highly efficient nonprofits by publishing a list of our Top-Rated charities. Groups included on our Top-Rated list generally spend 75% or more of their cash budgets on programs; spend $25 or less to raise each $100 of cash support; do not hold excessive assets in reserve (equal to an adjusted 3 years or more of a charity's annual cash spending); and meet CharityWatch's governance & transparency benchmarks. Along with our "A+" to "F" ratings, CharityWatch also publishes lists of High Asset Charities & Top Compensation Packages of charity executives. Our ratings also include detailed notes compiled by our analysts during our charity evaluations to help donors stay informed by providing context and flagging issues of interest we identify during our rating process.
CharityWatch's A+ to F ratings are the result of thousands of hours of in-depth analysis of large U.S. charities of national scope or interest, and our quality over quantity approach to rating charities unfortunately means that we can't rate every nonprofit. We direct donors and journalists to additional resources beyond CharityWatch to help them in their research of charities. These include other charity rating organizations that, like CharityWatch, provide meaningful evaluations of charities and other types of nonprofit organizations; links to state charity regulators and online databases where donors may obtain copies of charities' audited financial statements, tax filings, fundraising contracts, and other filing information; resources for locating information on religious organizations; links to investigations by the FTC and other federal regulators; resources for obtaining statistical data on the nonprofit sector; and links to other organizations that provide charity data and encourage transparency within the nonprofit sector.
CharityWatch publishes a biannual Charity Rating Guide & Watchdog Report for donors who lack reliable access to the internet or who otherwise prefer to consume information in a tangible medium. Our Guide contains ratings of hundreds of national charities presented on an easy to understand A+ to F scale, as well as helpful articles on charitable giving, reports on wrongdoing in the nonprofit sector, and tips for identifying efficient and effective charities to support. The Guide also includes a list of Top Twenty-Five Compensation Packages of charity executives, and a list of charities with large asset reserves. The Guide represents a condensed version of CharityWatch's work as published on charitywatch.org.