Charity Choices

A Resource for Donors

10 Accountability Standards

To be eligible for the Combined Federal Campaign and thus for this website, charities must meet 10 accountability standards. They must:

1. Reveal the percentage spent on fund-raising and administrative costs. This percentage comes from the charity’s “990” report to the IRS. We have included this percentage for each charity.

2. Undergo an annual audit. All national organizations must be audited every year "by an independent certified public accountant in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards." Beginning in 2017, small charities (budgets under $250,000) will no longer have to have an audit.

3. Prepare an annual report to the IRS. These reports, known as "990s," include extensive information about an organization's income and expenses, including what it pays its five top officials.

4. Document the “health and human benefits” it has provided during the previous year. National organizations must demonstrate that they provide services or benefits in at least 15 states.

5. Be recognized by the IRS as a 501(c) (3) public charity. These "c-3s" are the only organizations that can receive tax deductible contributions. An organization must meet several standards to qualify as a “c-3.”  One is that it not spend any money on partisan political activity, such as endorsing candidates. They can spend some of their money on lobbying and other forms of advocacy.

6. Have an "active and responsible governing body." An organization must have a board of directors, none of whom have a conflict of interest and most of whom serve without compensation. Nearly all board members of charities are volunteers, receiving no pay.

7. Be “truthful and non-deceptive” in how it promotes itself, making “no exaggerated or misleading claims." An organization's promotion must be "based upon its actual program and operations."

8. Use donations "for the announced purposes of the charitable organization." A charity can’t raise money for, say, hurricane relief and then use it to support an after-school program in another part of the country.

9. Prohibit the sale or lease of the names of its CFC contributors.

10. Demonstrate "a substantial local presence” to qualify as a local charity in one of the CFC's many local campaigns across the country.  This is defined as “a staffed facility, office or portion of a residence dedicated exclusively to that organization, available to members of the public seeking its services or benefits.”

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