04/05/2011 09:04 am ET | Updated Jun 05, 2011

How accountable and transparent is your favorite charity? Ask Charity Navigator

Okay, I'm now talking to a lot of professionals in the nonprofit world. I'm hearing that most nonprofits are fine, but there still a whole bunch who are good at telling you a good story, cash your checks, make some noise, and get nothing real done. In some cases, they make things worse, by attacking the efforts which actually get stuff done.

Charity Navigator is tackling this problem head on, in the first phases of efforts that measure what's the deal with a charity.

Most donors don't have the time to check into this, stuff like the accountability and transparency of a nonprofit. That includes asking if the charity shows you where the money comes from and where it goes, and is there a whistleblower policy. However, this is part of any effort to figure out if they're the real deal, and worth your dollars.

The good news is that Charity Navigator is on the job, working on it. Their analysis have begun monitoring 17 different metrics to help you know if the charity follows ethical best practices and if it makes it easy for donors to find critical information. Once Charity Navigator has captured this data for all 5,500 charities listed on it site, then it will 'flip the switch' and integrate the information into its star rating system. It plans to make that switch from a 1-dimensional to a 2-dimensional rating system this coming summer.

Soon, the Charity Navigator people plan to transition to a 3-dimensional rating system that gets to the bottom line- the charity's impact, how effective it is. Over time, their analysis will eventually illuminate which charities are actually getting stuff done that benefits communities and people's lives.