Who do you trust to tell you a nonprofit is legit?

You just opened up another email fundraiser. Even though your friend may like the organization, how do you check it out? We all want to support organizations that are actually making a difference, but how you research their impact?

Seasoned donors go to two places to get basic information when researching nonprofits. They go to Guidestar and CharityNavigator. These sites are also nonprofits, they are unbiased and publish information that we need to be able to see if a nonprofit is transparent, uses best practices on board management and is financially strong.

If you are a donor in a new city, or hear about something you want to know more about, these are the go-to sites.

If you are a nonprofit CEO or staff, you need to have these two sites on your immediate radar. If your organization does not have it’s profile complete, get it done. This should be your priority today. It takes about 20 minutes.

Charity Navigator rates nonprofits similar to the Better Business Bureau. You need an operating budget larger than $200K get the full effect of their site. If your nonprofit is small, you can still leverage it for building trust with donors. With today’s competitive environment, nonprofits should work to get a high score.

They measure :
a. Finance and Accountability
b. Impact and Results
c. Leadership and Adaptability
d. Culture and Community

The site also has a one to five star overall rating. The last time we looked, there are only 142 organizations in Texas with 4 stars. It’s hard to get there. That is the reason they ask all the hard questions for you. It is worth a look for donors, and for nonprofit leaders.

GuideStar (a part of Candid) is the most popular online resource that donors use to look up quality of a nonprofit. They rate nonprofits (none, bronze, silver, gold and platinum) based on information available and are often a sign of transparency. There is a lot of information on each front page when you put the name of the organization in a search. You can get to their most recent 990 form (the tax return that lists how much they spend on programs, fundraising and employees for starters).

At first, you may think you need to pay for a subscription, but just click off of that and use their no cost lookup system. You can look up the details of up to 20 nonprofits a month without paying the fee.

If you are a nonprofit executive or board member, find out who has access to update your nonprofit’s profile. To get to the

They also have a rating system that measures the things like percentage of expenses to programs vs. management, and if you have best practices for board management that are noted on your 990 form each year.

Having great scores, and giving the most information that you can is one of the best ways to gain trust in the donors’ eyes.

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