While you can see financial and operations data, GuideStar is really only a directory. There is no rating or evaluation system. Their highest level Seal of Transparency only addresses the completeness of the nonprofit's profile.
Use this site to find charities based on geographic area, organization (field), or financials. A premium membership is available but the cost is steep at a minimum of $183 a month for a single user.
GiveWell identifies and vets charities along four main criteria: effectiveness, cost-effectiveness, room for more funding, and transparency. They focus on finding the most outstanding charities along these criteria rather than in-depth investigations for each organization. They put greater emphasis on how much good a given program does per dollar spent. Their charities only work in global health and development overseas.
You can make a donation to be distributed to their recommended charities at their discretion or choose from a small list of the current top charities. (At the time of this article there are seven listed on the site.)
Launched in 2017, Effective Altruism Fund (EA Fund) was created by Centre for Effective Altruism. This charity cherry-picker operates like a mutual fund. You choose buckets to direct your donations for more effective work in one, or any combination, of four areas: Global Health and Development, Animal Welfare, Long-Term Future, Effective Altruism Meta.
The fund then pools donations together with hundreds of others and the fund manager finds high-impact organizations to make grants to. While the organizations are not ranked on the site, the funds are ranked by risk: low-risk, medium-risk, and high-risk. The higher the risk, the less certain the impact. For example, high-risk grants have a low certainty of success but the potential for high upside. The fund managers also evaluate prospective grants using conceptual models outlined in detail here.
Founded in 2002, GlobalGiving is the largest global crowdfunding community. Nonprofits apply to join the organization, then donors and companies can help them. All nonprofits in the community are fully vetted every two years by the organization to ensure they are transparent, accountable, and meet local requirements.
Each charity or fund is listed, as well as the goal. If they are ranked, evaluated, or accredited by another organization, that information is provided at the bottom of the listing. They also list when they were first vetted, if they are effective, and if a staff member has visited the site to verify the operation. Once you find a charity or fund you like, you donate directly through the site.
BBB Wise Giving Alliance helps you make informed donation decisions by producing reports on national charities and evaluating them against 20 standards. Each standard is given a "Standard is Met", "Standard is Not Met", or "Unable to Verify Status".
The first five standards BBB evaluates are about governance and oversight. The next two look at how they define and measure goals and effectiveness. The next seven look at their finances and the final six at fundraising and information (such as annual reporting.)
Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE) began under the name Effective Animal Activism in 2012. They are part of the Centre for Effective Altruism and were founded to help those looking to give effectively to animal-related nonprofits. Their mission has evolved over the years, but today they find and promote the most effective ways to help animals in three areas: research, education, and fundraising.
The site provides lists of animal charities with reviews of varying depths which are clearly marked as comprehensive, exploratory, or basic consideration. They list recommended, top, and standout charities across 11 areas including: shelter and sanctuaries, general animal advocacy, veterinary, and others. You can donate to ACE directly, their recommended charity fund, ACE’s top charities, or to ACE’s Effective Animal Advocacy Fund directly on the site..
ImpactMatters is a tool to search and find nonprofits. They rate their charities based on one critical question: How will a donation directly improve a life? They answer that question based on three principles, reward impact, don’t punish a charity because of their overhead, and support nonprofits. Put simply, how many meals served/lives saved are directly caused by your donation.
They assign a star-rating system for their charities based on their cost-effectiveness with 1 being the programs that may be mismanaged and 5 the programs that are highly cost-effective. They only compare nonprofits within the same cause, who report the data needed to calculate impact, and only in “service delivery”—nonprofits that deliver a program directly to people. They do not rate advocacy or research nonprofits.
For as many reasons as there are to help others through donations, there are just as many organizations to support. Whichever ideal speaks to you, we urge you to do a little research first.
If supporting nonprofits is important to you, a comprehensive financial plan can include this priority in your financial goals. In addition to helping you determine how much you can give, a financial planner can also help you find the most beneficial ways to make your donations.
For example, one method might be a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) from an IRA. A QCD is a distribution from the retirement account of an individual who is at least 70 ½ and is made directly to a charity. Another method might be a Donor Advised Fund through a broker like Charles Schwab. An experienced financial advisor can help you determine if either of these options would be right for you.