These days, a charity’s performance gets more attention than ever. Independent organizations have developed sophisticated rating systems to evaluate financial health, accountability (a charity’s willingness to explain its actions to its stakeholders) and transparency (a charity’s willingness to publish and make available critical data).

Today’s donors are well educated about these standards. In fact, they often use evaluators’ reviews — which are publicly available on the Internet — to decide which charities to support. The best known and most influential organizations that monitor U.S. charities are Charity Navigator, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance and GuideStar. Meeting these organizations’ financial, accountability and transparency standards is a key part of earning donors’ trust — and it could make all the difference for your foundation’s success.

Here are a few tips* to help you get started:

  • Visit the websites of Charity Navigator, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Candid to learn how to meet each organization’s standards. Note that the BBB and Candid include most U.S. charities in their databases, whereas Charity Navigator has more selective criteria.
  • Search each evaluator’s website to see whether its database includes your foundation. Note the positives and negatives in each review; these show you (and your donors) what you do well and what you need to improve to meet each set of standards. If your foundation isn’t listed but meets the eligibility guidelines, submit a request to be added and reviewed.
  • Develop a plan of action to correct the negative factors in your reviews. Our Kiwanis family foundation resources may be useful as you ensure your foundation meets each evaluator’s standards. Be prepared to explain your reviews and plan of action to your shareholders, addressing both positives and negatives — and any corrections you’ve made.

If you have questions or comments, contact the Kiwanis Children’s Fund at

*Recommendations are currently targeted to United States foundations. We welcome questions and suggestions regarding resources we could include to help Kiwanis family foundations outside the U.S.