Understanding our Ratings

What we're analyzing

Charity Intelligence analysts review publicly-available information on each of the over 800 charities we evaluate. This includes their financial statements, annual reports, CRA T3010 filings, and websites. Each charity is consistently rated given the standards set in our rating methodology. We work for donors, not charities, to shed light on the giving landscape and provide donors with the knowledge to make informed giving decisions. 


What the star rating means 

Our star ratings are based on the following 5 factors: 


1. Results Reporting 

The results reporting grade is an evaluation of the charity's reporting levels. This evaluation takes into account the public reporting of the charity's activities, outputs, and outcomes, without assessing the strength or quality of these elements. A charity can have a score ranging from A+ to F. This grade accounts for 35% of the star rating. 


2. Financial Transparency

We judge a charity's financial transparency based on how easily we can access its audited financial statements. A fully transparent score (✔+) means that 2+ years of its statements are posted on its website; ✔ means that its most recent statement is posted; ✖ means that it is not transparent as its statements are not posted online - either they are available only when requested from the charity or they are only available through a request for information from the Charities Directorate. A charity's financial transparency accounts for 15% of the star rating. 


3. Need for Funding

Another component of our evaluation is the charity's need for funding, comparing its reserve funds relative to the annual program spending. Reserve funds include liquid assets of cash, cash equivalents, and investment securities, less interest-bearing liabilities. The need for funding metric is calculated based on the ratio of reserve funds  (excluding donor-endowed funds) and the annual program costs. This ratio accounts for 15% of the star rating. 

Update 2023: more donors are asking more questions about charities' balance sheets. We feel this is critical information. It's important to see whether a charity is rich or poor, and ponder whether a charity needs your donation. Many charities fundraise because they can. Some charities already have tens of millions or hundreds of millions in reserve funds. We think it's important for donors to know this information. 

For those of you who want to learn more, here are additional articles that discuss in detail the need for funding with examples: 

Excessive fundraising by charities is not a joke, Calgary Herald, September 19, 2020

Like toilet paper hoarders, some charities unnecessarily fill reserves, Covid outbreak, March 24, 2020.


4. Cents to the Cause

We evaluate how many cents are available to go towards the charity's programs for each dollar donated. We have developed a "reasonable range" for overhead spending: 5% to 35%. If overhead costs are below 5%, we reason that the charity is either not spending enough on its fundraising and overhead costs, or it may not be disclosing these costs appropriately. Above 35%, there is concern that the charity may not be operating effectively. Above 50%, there is significant concern that the charity is overspending on fundraising and administrative costs.  This ratio accounts for 15% of the star rating.


5. Social Impact Rating

The final factor that affects the star rating is the social impact rating. The impact ratings display the demonstrated social impact produced by the charity for each dollar donated as well as a measure of the quality of the data available to assess the charity's social impact. For a more detailed description of this metric, please see our Social Impact Ratings Methodology page.  We are still in the process of reviewing social impact for charities, thus you will not always see it in the analysis. Where it is available, it accounts for 20% of the star rating.


Extra information 

  • Programs: For more information about the charity, its results and impact, and its presence in the news, you can find that information under the Programs section. 
  • Finances: We break down the charity's finances in this section, comparing the most recent three years of our analysis. We also include salary information. 
  • Comments & Contact: Charity Intelligence sends all this information as a report to the respective charity for any edits or comments. We include these comments here if provided. 


Intelligent Giving

For charities that have a lower score, we provide thoughtfully-selected alternative charities doing similar work in similar geographies for donors that are looking to make a switch but still want to donate to the same cause. This list can be found in the right-hand sidebar of many lower-scored charity profiles.  

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Charity Intelligence researches Canadian charities for donors to be informed and give intelligently. Our website posts free reports on more than 800 Canadian charities, as well as in-depth primers on philanthropic sectors like Canada’s environment, cancer, and homelessness. Today over 500,000 Canadians use our website as a go-to source for information on Canadian charities reading over 1.6 million charity reports. Through rigorous and independent research, Charity Intelligence aims to assist Canada’s dynamic charitable sector in being more transparent, accountable and focused on results.


Be Informed. Give Intelligently. Have Impact


Charitable Registration Number: 80340 7956 RR0001