Do You Know What an Independent Charity Evaluator Is?

For a long time now if you went to our website you would see that we proudly display the emblem that shows we have received a four-star rating, the highest, from Charity Navigator.  A few months ago Roadrunner Food Bank received the much-coveted accreditation from the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance.

What exactly are sites like Charity Navigator and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance?  They, as well as several other sites, are independent charity evaluators that seek to provide donors with a means for determining the worthiness of non-profits they are considering supporting.  They typically cull data from things that are publicly available like our IRS 990 Form, annual reports, audited financial statements and website content.  By looking at things like our accountability, transparency, Board governance and programs, they distill a lot of complex information into a simple ranking system, like one to four stars, or a bronze, silver, platinum rating.

Last March we decided we wanted to get the BBB accreditation.  Feeding America, our national organization, requires that we meet the BBB Wise Giving Alliance standards in order to keep our membership.  We were already following their standards and we saw the BBB Accredited Charity mark on the websites of other food banks around the country, so we thought we should have it too.

Our first step was to call our local Better Business Bureau chapter to ask how we apply for their non-profit accreditation.  Unfortunately, our local Better Business Bureau chapter does not have a program for accrediting non-profits, so, with Feeding America’s help, we contacted the national office of the Better Business Bureau to ask how to go about participating in the accreditation process.  They usually only accredit national non-profits but since our local chapter could not, they agreed to make an exception and work with us.

BBB logo and sealTheir process was rigorous and involved.  Donna Marlow, our Strategic Giving Manager, tirelessly worked to provide the stacks of information and to dot every “i” and cross every “t” in the paperwork.  They came back with more questions and requests and she stayed on top of it.  Finally we received approval in March 2013, a full year after beginning the process.

While we know that Roadrunner Food Bank operates by the highest standards of accountability and transparency, it’s meaningful for donors to see these independent ratings.

Below are links to our reports on both the BBB Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Navigator.

You can use these websites to look up almost any charity you are thinking of supporting and I encourage you to do so.  As donors, we have the right to know about how our donations are being used.

Charity Navigator Four Star Charity

Stephanie Miller is the Director of Development at Roadrunner Food Bank.

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