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How to Research Charitable Organizations

How to Research Charitable Organizations

March 01, 2016

The Wounded Warrior Project has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. You may have heard about the lavish spending and relatively low percentage of donations being spent to help veterans uncovered in this recent CBS News investigative report.

In light of this disappointing news (and with tax day on the horizon, knowing many of you are reviewing your charitable donations for 2015), we thought it was a good time to provide some helpful resources for researching charitable organizations.

Charity Navigator ( is a non-profit website that provides ratings and information on charitable entities. In addition to using the database as a way to review the financials of charities you are currently supporting, you can also take a look at their “Top 10 Lists” including “10 Most Frequently Viewed Charities” (no surprise Wounded Warrior Project is currently topping this list), “10 Celebrity-Related Charities”, “10 Top-Notch Charities.” The site also has an entire section on tips for donors with guidelines for “savvy donors,” “what to do when a charity calls,” and a “giving calculator.”

Another resource is The Better Business Bureau’s National Charity Report Index ( This site reviews the following areas to determine their ratings: oversite, effectiveness, finances, and solicitations. Their weekly post, “Wise Giving Wednesday” offers advice and news related to charitable giving. The site also offers users the means to file complaints about national charities online through the BBB Wise Giving Alliance.

Charity Watch (, is a similar database which also provides ratings and information on charities. Their site assigns a letter grade ranging from A+ to F, which according to their in-depth evaluations and calculations determines the “efficiency rating” of a charity. They perform “evaluations financial reporting, including audited financial statements, tax forms, annual reports, and state filings.” Once that evaluation is complete, they factor in fundraising costs and the percentage of money spent on its charitable purpose to arrive at their grade.

These websites are tools to help you make more informed choices, however, in the end, the decision to donate to an organization or cause is an extremely personal one. Please let us know if you have any questions related to charitable donations and how they might impact your financial plan. We are here to help.