Charity Checker aggregates ratings and reviews in one place

Several websites provide resources and ratings to help donors determine a charity’s good (and not-so-good) deeds.

Like other media outlets, we often refer consumers to such sites operated by GuideStar, Charity Navigator, the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance and GreatNonprofits.

But no one has pulled these resources together in one place – until now.

You might have seen my tweets about this last week. The Tampa Bay Times and The Center for Investigative Reporting together have built Charity Checker, a new aggregation tool to help consumers more efficiently find information about charities. You can find it at tampabay.com/charitychecker.

Charity Checker is a new and evolving tool. We expect to make refinements and improvements. With your feedback, we hope to make it as useful as possible. If you have ideas or suggestions, email us at charitychecker@tampabay.com.

The site searches the nation’s top charity watchdog and review sites and shows their unfiltered ratings and reviews. These sites don’t rate every one of the 1.6 million nonprofits in the United States. But together, they cover thousands of the country’s largest and most popular causes. We’ll be adding and updating information regularly to add more charities and make sure we correct any glitches that are common whenever a new tool is launched.

There is no perfect rating system. Each has its advantages and shortcomings. And each charity rater considers different criteria. Some focus more on transparency and public disclosures. Others look more closely at financial accountability. Some rating systems rely on mandatory regulatory filings, while others ding charities for not filing information that is totally voluntary.

We’re not endorsing the ratings or the methods. We’re merely aggregating what is already in the public domain to make things easier for consumers. But we also see this as an opportunity to start a broader dialogue with the public about what features or measurements would provide even more useful consumer ratings for nonprofits.

The tool allows consumers to type in the name of more than 11,000 charities to find how these rating services and review sites rank some of the most popular nonprofits. You also can filter charities by category and location. Once you find the charity you’re looking for, clicking on one of the ratings takes you directly to the source. You also can write your own reviews of charities through GreatNonprofits.

We strongly encourage anyone using the tools to dig deeper before making any decisions on whether to support a cause. Watchdog ratings and reviews are just one way to measure the value of a nonprofit. They are a starting point. You might want to review available nonprofit tax forms and explore a charity’s own website for additional information about its programs and services. You’ll have to decide what measures are important to you. But hopefully, the research has just gotten a little bit easier.

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