There has been a lot of talk about the recent publication, "America's 50 Worst Charities." Friends have told me about this list, I've seen it on news websites, social media feeds; it's really making the rounds. I am grateful that this list is gaining such popularity because it's what you and I, as donors, have the right to know. That's why we've flagged these nonprofits and hundreds of others in Givalike directory. When you look at one of these organizations in Givalike, you'll see a warning sign (like this image but bigger), letting you know to carefully consider if you really want to give your money to this organization.

But what about the other end of the spectrum? As was asked in an online discussion, "What are the 50 BEST charities?" It's a great question and so I decided to run a list.

You see, every organization in the Givalike directory has a score that we use to help our members and site visitors find the right nonprofit for them. For example, a user looking for a nonprofit focused on international issues will see Doctors Without Borders listed first due it it's high score.

We determine these scores using a complicated algorithm that takes into account dozens of different factors. I'm not going to give up all the details of the algorithm but can tell you that third-party validation is the top factor. We look at both national certifications and community support lists. The national certifications, such as Charity Navigator and Charity Watch, showcase larger, national nonprofits. While the community support lists, such as Rotary Club 33 and San Diego Social Ventures Partners, focus on the smaller, local organizations. By aggregating data from all these different lists we avoid both the biases and potential manipulation that you see with individual ranking sites.

These scores were never intended to provide an absolute list of the "best nonprofits" but rather help rank between similar organizations, so I wasn't sure how it would turn out.

Here's what I got:


After reviewing the list, I was extremely pleased. All fifty of these organizations are well-run and well-focused on their mission. They all deserve to be on this list and donors should feel comfortable giving to any one of them.

But the list is not perfect and in fact, there are many on the list that I can't imagine I'd ever give to. They're good organizations but their priorities, focuses, and methods do not align with my personal giving philosophy. Additionally, in a clear failing, there is not a single small organization on the list. Much of the great work done by nonprofits is done by tiny organizations with no paid staff and essentially no overhead. Can a best list really be taken seriously without recognizing these organizations?

Overall, again, I'm very happy with the results and we will be highlighting these nonprofits on our website (as part of an upcoming redesign). But this is only a start, the real goal is to help our users find their personal top 50 lists. Each one us has different goals, interests, and rules for the organizations that we support. One donor may be focused on long-term global initiatives while another is looking for immediate changes in their own community.

In Part II of this blog post, I'll be addressing the question of developing your personal top 50 list in more detail. In the meantime, I'd appreciate your feedback, suggestions and ideas.

You can reach me at katz@givalike.org or 877-586-5676.

Posted by Ben Katz

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