Step one

Clarify your values

Nonprofits are as diverse as their donors. Be proactive and don’t just give to the first one that solicits you! Consider the type of charity you want to support—small or large; start-up or established; local, national, or international. 

Step two

Focus on the mission

Make sure a nonprofit has an easy-to- understand mission that aligns with your principles and beliefs. You can look up a specific nonprofit in Candid’s GuideStar resource of more than 2.9 million current and historic organizations, or you can use the search filters to find charities by category, size, and location. 

Step three

Get the facts

Dig deeper once you find a nonprofit that meets your basic requirements. Pay attention to factors that are most relevant to nonprofit performance—results, transparency, and leadership. 

Remember: there are no stories without numbers, and no numbers without stories. Visit a nonprofit’s website. Read its annual report. And turn to its GuideStar nonprofit profile for an easy indication of its transparency. Look for a Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum Seal of Transparency logo on its profile to research mission statements, financial statistics, and impact and effectiveness information. 

Step four

Check legitimacy

Let’s face it: there are sham nonprofits out there. If you find an organization on Candid’s Guidestar resource, you know the IRS recognizes it as tax exempt. (Our GuideStar Pro tool includes information on defunct organizations, but those profiles are clearly marked.) If you can’t find a nonprofit, further investigation is required: 

  • If the charity is not on Candid’s GuideStar, ask to see its IRS letter of determination. 
  • If the organization is faith based, ask to see its official listing in a directory for its denomination. 

Step five

Trust your instincts

If you have concerns about a nonprofit, don’t contribute. Instead, find another nonprofit that does similar work but makes you feel more comfortable. Remember, reputable nonprofits:

  • Are willing to send you literature about their work, or direct you to their website.
  • Don’t use pressure tactics.
  • Take “no” for an answer.


Start searching on GuideStar

Tools and resources

General nonprofit research

Disaster relief and recovery

Additional resources

  • Candid BlogLearn about key topics, tips, and news from the nonprofit sector.
  • Philanthropy News Digest (PND)A daily news service of Candid with philanthropy-related articles and features
  • Explore issuesThe work from the field is diverse, and insights can come from everywhere. Discover what you can learn about today.