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Finance & Accountability

Discover the stability, efficiency, and sustainability of nonprofits

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Finance & Accountability beacon

Gain Insight into Nonprofit Efficiency and Transparency

To help donors find sustainable and accountable nonprofits, we've launched the Finance & Accountability beacon. This beacon provides an analysis of a nonprofit's financial health and governance practices.

How Delays at the IRS are Effecting Charity Navigator Ratings

The IRS is currently delayed in processing Forms 990 and have changed how they make the forms available to the public. If your organization is Encompass-rated, its Finance & Accountability score may not be updated in our March ratings release as a result. We will share updates as we have them. Thanks for your understanding and patience.


Charity Navigator has been rating the financial health and governance practices of nonprofits for decades via its long-relied upon Star Rating System. In July 2020, we launched the Encompass Rating System to make our ratings more inclusive of nonprofits of all sizes and to provide a more comprehensive assessment of a nonprofit's total impact. Finance & Accountability was the first beacon rolled out as part of Encompass.

Learn more about the methodology >>

Leveraging Finance & Accountability Scores to Inform Giving

Screenshot of Encompass rating

The Finance & Accountability beacon equips the millions of donors that utilize Charity Navigator ratings annually with information on how nonprofits are stewarding the donations they receive and how the organization operates.

Nonprofits will earn a Finance & Accountability score based on financial performance and ratios, and what policies and practices these organizations have in place to protect constituents.

Note: Organizations assessed through our Star Rating System cannot earn Finance & Accountability beacons, as Finance and Accountability & Transparency are evaluated through a separate methodology as part of the Star Rating System.

Nonprofits Operating Efficiently and Transparently

More than 180,000 nonprofits have Finance & Accountability beacons, including these organizations:

How We Assess Finance & Accountability

We receive IRS Forms 990 (the IRS tax form that tax-exempt organizations must file annually) electronically from the IRS throughout the year.

Newly acquired e-filed full 990s, are processed and published three times a year in alignment with the Encompass rating release cycle (March, July, October). Nonprofits, including newly eligible organizations that have fulfilled the requirement of three years of e-filed 990s (990 EZ and 990N are not sufficient), need not request a Finance & Accountability score; it will be issued automatically. At this time, IRS Forms or corrections, financial audits, or any other documents scored within this beacon cannot be uploaded or submitted to Charity Navigator directly from the nonprofit.


  1. Program Expense (25 or 13 points)
    The Program Expense Ratio is determined by the amount an organization spends on program expenses (page 10, line 25b) as a percentage of its total expenses. We calculate the average program percentage over the three most recent fiscal years. A charity with a reported percentage of 70% or higher will receive the 25 points for this metric. Charities with a percentage between 60%-69.9% will receive 13 points.
  2. Independent Audit or Financial Review (20 points)
    Organizations with a total revenue above $1 million are expected to have completed an independent audit (page 12, line 2b). Charities with a revenue between $500K and $1 million are expected to have completed a formal audit, review, or compilation (page 12, line 2b or 2c). Charities that have completed the expected financial documentation will receive the 20 points for this metric. This metric is not applicable to organizations with less than $500K in revenue*.
  3. Board Composition (25 points)
    An organization must have at least three board members (page 1, line 3). In addition, more than 50 percent of those members must be identified on the Form 990 as independent (page 1, line 4). A charity with an independent board that meets this criteria will receive the 25 points.
  4. Liabilities to Assets (15 or 8 points)
    The Liabilities to Assets percentage is determined by total liabilities (page 11, line 26b) as a percentage of total assets (page 11, line 16b). We calculate this percentage per the most recent fiscal year end. A charity with a reported percentage of less than 50% will receive the 15 points for this metric. Charities with a percentage between 50% and 59.9% will receive 8 points.
  5. Website listed (3 points)
    The organization must have a website listed on its 990 (page 1, line j). This is an accountability and transparency measure; nonprofits act in the public trust and reporting publicly on activities is an important component of our rating. A charity that lists their website address on page one of the 990 will receive the 10 points.
  6. Documents board meeting minutes (3 points)
    The organization must confirm on its 990 (page 6, line 8a) that they adhere to this process. An official record of the board meeting events that took place ensures that a contemporaneous document exists for future reference. Charities that have this process in place will receive 3 points.
  7. Whistleblower policy (3 points)
    The organization must confirm on its 990 (page 6, line 13) that they have a whistleblower policy. This policy outlines procedures for handling employee complaints, as well as a confidential way for employees to report mismanagement. Charities that have this policy in place will receive 3 points.
  8. Conflict of interest policy (3 points)
    The organization must confirm on its 990 (page 6, line 12a) that they have a conflict of interest policy in place. This policy protects the organization and by extension those it serves, when it is considering entering into a transaction that may benefit the private interest of an officer, director and/or key employee of the organization. Charities that have this policy in place will receive 3 points.
  9. Records retention and destruction policy (3 points)
    The organization must confirm on its 990 (page 6, line 14) that they have a records retention and destruction policy in place for handling, backing up, archiving and destructing documents. Charities that have this policy in place will receive 3 points.

*For the charities with less than $500K in revenue who are not subject to the Independent Audit, Review, Compilation metric; the scoring will be adjusted for these metrics as follows:

  • Board Composition (35 points)
  • Website Listed (5 points)
  • Documents board meeting minutes (5 points)
  • Whistleblower policy (5 points)
  • Conflict of interest policy (5 points)
  • Records retention and destruction policy (5 Points)
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