Lots of people want to help other people, and often philanthropy is that answer. Problem is that there's no shortage of tragedy, and there are a lot of nonprofits around... and we keep hearing about ones that don't get the job done. Some aren't even on the up-and-up at all, sounding good, and then keeping the money you send them, or wasting it.
Charity Navigator has been around a while, really good at evaluating the financial soundness of nonprofits:
Charity Navigator is America's largest and most influential charity rater. We serve over 3.3 million unique visitors and impact approximately $10 billion of charitable donations each year. This makes Charity Navigator far and away the largest and most utilized charity rating service that exists anywhere.
They're announcing better ways to evaluate charities, getting very real about it. For example, they're taking measures to measure how transparent the operations of a nonprofit are, that is, how much they reveal of their operations.
Another really big deal is that they're embedding "constituency voice" into their considerations, that is, charity helpers and receivers tell you how effective the charity is.
Also, they're "creating a web platform through which we can train, certify, and guide an army of volunteer Charity Navigator raters.
Finally, they're "integrating the evaluative insights of other providers. Our two current partners are the bookends on the constituency voice spectrum - GreatNonprofits and Keystone Accountability. Great Nonprofits channels feedback on nonprofits performance through an open system. Keystone proactively builds benchmarked feedback data sets through systematic data collection." GreatNonprofiits should go online very soon, with more to come.
The deal will be that you'll be able to check out a charity so see if it's legit, and if it gets the job done.
Disclosure: because of this direction, I've joined the advisory boards of Charity Navigator and GreatNonprofits.