Charity Navigator (CN), self-billed as “your guide to intelligent giving” is a donor-centered database that allows visitors analyze the financial transparency and responsibility of over 8,000 charitable organizations in the United States.
To be rated within CN’s system, your nonprofit must be located in the US and meet a number of criteria.
Per the Charity Navigator website, these requirements include:
- Being a registered 501(c)3 and filling out a Form 990
- Revenue of at least $1 million for 2 years in a row
- In operation for 7+ years
- Must raise at least $500,000 in public funds annually
- Fundraising and administrative expenses must be over 1% of budget
- Not any of the following: Hospitals, universities, colleges, private schools, land trusts, community foundations, and sorority and/or fraternity foundations.
Charities are awarded between 1-4 stars based on a complex calculation of the Form 990 and website. From these sources, CN looks at factors like program expenses, executive pay, the use of professional fundraisers, fundraising costs, and a quality website.
In response to a growing trend of looking at impact, CN has plans to start incorporating reported results in future evaluations/ratings.
As you can see, in order to be rated, your organization has to meet some fairly narrow criteria.
Whether or not you meet the criteria, your profile is still visible on the website. For unrated organizations, your information is automatically populated from your Form 990 after you’ve followed your taxes. Therefore, changes cannot be made unless you reach out to the IRS and make changes to your actual tax forms.
Rated organizations can update their profiles with basic information.
Follow these steps to update your nonprofit’s Charity Navigator profile.
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1. Register As An Official Charity Representative
If no one has claimed your organization’s profile, you’ll see a button at the bottom of your profile that says “ Charity Login”. After you select this, follow the steps to register.
In instances when no option to claim the profile is there, reach out to Charity Navigator at this email address: email@example.com.
2. Update Your Profile
After you’ve been approved, you can make basic edits to your profile. Remember that most information is uploaded automatically from your Form 990 and therefore cannot be changed.
Information that you can edit includes:
- Contact information (address, phone numbers)
- Mission statement
- CEO name
- Any tagline/slogan used by your nonprofit/brand
- Comments about your current rating, including information about future improvements, changes, etc.
3. Check CN Frequently
CN updates their ratings 2-3 months after a nonprofit files their tax forms for the year. As you can see from the charity:water example above, the rating publish date is indicated under the overall score.
Any issues with your tax information on the CN site may indicate an issue with the tax forms you filed earlier in the year. Keep a record of all your tax filings and contact the IRS if you notice any discrepancies.
To be on the safe side, check your CN profile quarterly.
4. Keep Track Of Changes Within CN
As you may have noticed, trends and expectations for nonprofit transparency and reporting are always evolving. Today, there’s less of a focus on keeping overhead costs low, and more emphasis on equating costs to impact.
CN has recognized this trend and is currently working on ways to incorporate impact and results reporting into their rating formula. Stay connected to the CN network through their Facebook page and Twitter feed to learn about the changes and how they may impact your cause.
Many of your donors, especially those just starting to get to know your organization, will look to Charity Navigator to get a glimpse of your financial transparency. Therefore, we suggest you keep your CN profile up-to-date and accurate.
For information on updating your Guidestar profile, please visit our post: How To Update Your GuideStar Profile.