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How To Use The Forbes List Of Top Charities To Guide Your Own Giving

There are way more than 1 million tax-exempt nonprofits in the United States, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The new Forbes ranking of the Top Charities includes only 100. Yet the Forbes list can help you evaluate any charity you might consider donating to. Why? Because analytical techniques are similar. The only real difference is the number of zeros.

But first, a description of the Forbes list and its methodology. Our array is of the 100 largest charities, as measured by the amount of private support received in the latest fiscal period for which there is available data. It is quantitative, based on numbers, and not judgmental based on our opinion. However, on occasion we have removed a charity for accounting we considered wildly misleading. Largest is not necessarily the best, although they are often the best-known brand names.  

Information we gather usually comes directly from the charities themselves, in the form of audited financial statements, IRS Form 990 filings, annual reports or Forbes survey forms that many charities fill out and return. They cover fiscal years that generally ended in 2020. Some charities turn around their results rather quickly, others more slowly. So we have results for fiscal periods ending in 2021, and a few for periods ending in 2019.

The private support we count for our rankings can be gifts from individuals, their estates,…

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