Checking out charities

checkbook and pen

Charities solicit donations throughout the year, yet year-end giving is an important and special source of income for most.

A generous spirit motivates many people during the holidays. Tax deductions motivate people, too.mailbox

Nevertheless, they want their limited and hard-earned dollars to go to causes they believe in.

Mailboxes get crammed with calendars, address labels, notepads, dream catchers and year-end membership renewal letters.

Deciding how much to give to which deserving charity or charities can be difficult.

For example…

Defenders of Wildlife is rather well known. Beautifully-photographed wildlife calendars enhance its fundraising campaigns. Solicitation letters cite case studies and statistics about endangered animals in appeals for donations.

Defenders’ stated purpose is: “to protect all native animals and plants in their natural communities.”

However, it spends more than 28 percent of its income on climate change and federal environmental protection causes.  Some donors may acknowledge and heartily support Defenders’ political activism.

Other donors and potential contributors may be unaware that Defenders of Wildlife pursues and funds a dual agenda. Whether they support one or another program, donors want to have all the available information.

Sources for checking out charities

Three widely recognized charity raters are BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, and Guide Star.

  • The BBB Wise Giving Alliance (WGA) evaluates charities that request it, or when a member of the public makes an inquiry. WGA also publishes a Wise Giving Guide three times a year.


  • Charity Navigator rates 8,000 charities, calculating the average of their financial health and accountability and transparency scores, up to a maximum 100 points that earns them from one to four stars.
  • It also maintains a Donor Advisory and a Watch list of charities with legal or other problems or issues that donors should know about.


  • Guide Star reports on the largest number of non-profits – more than 1.8 million.

GuideStar home page

Three raters’ search results: Defenders of Wildlife

BBB Wise Giving Alliance Search

Note: WGA accredited the “Environment” category – but not its “Charity – Animal Protection” or “Charity – National” at the same address.

Clicking on the link to view the full report opens an information page with tabs labeled: Conclusion; Purpose; Programs; Governance & Staff; Fundraising; Tax Status and Financial.BBBDoW











Charity Navigator Search

Information tabs on results page link to Current Rating; Programs; 
History; IRS Forms 990; and Comments.


Guide Star Search

Look for details under tabs: Summary, Financials. Forms 990 & Docs. People & Governance, Programs, Impact, External Perspective, and Contractors.


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