How We Rank

"No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else."
Bill Joy, Cofounder Sun Microsystems
How do we rank and review nonprofits?

Overview of Methodology: Crowd sourcing expert opinion

Philanthropedia surveys experts like foundation professionals, researchers, and nonprofit senior staff. Our experts have an average of 8-20+ years of experience in their sector.
Top Nonprofits
Our experts recommend nonprofits based on their impact and other organizational strengths. (Experts are not allowed to recommend the organization at which they work.)

The page contains the following details, click to jump down:

How we choose experts

We are primarily interested in surveying foundation professionals, academics, researchers, nonprofit senior staff, policy makers, and other professionals working in the cause we’re studying at the moment.

We aim to build an expert network with a balanced representation of qualified professionals from all of these fields, with diverse geographical representation, and with diverse areas of expertise.

We target experts in a cause through a combination of cold emails and warm referrals (on the basis of professional and personal connections).

We try to identify as many qualified experts as possible to invite them to join the network. We have a systematic way to build our list of experts. We search for all types of foundations that fund the cause we're studying and identify all program officers and directors working there. We then search for all colleges and universities that have areas of study around the cause and scan professor's biographies to find relevant experts. We identify all nonprofits working in that cause and invite their leaders and senior staff members (we search GuideStar and other charity databases, regional agencies, and the web in general to find these charities). We also search for other research institutions, think tanks, government agencies, consultants, etc. As well, we search for experts through conference speaker lists and other major events. We certainly cannot identify every possible expert, but we hope that by systematically looking for a wide variety of kinds of experts across a sector and across a geography, we can build a representative and independent large sample size for our research.

When experts fill out our survey, we collect information to confirm the strength and diversity of our expert network. We ask experts how many years they have been working in their field, what professional affiliations and/or academic background they have in the field, what their professional title is and who their employer is, and, we ask them to rank themselves on an expertise scale of 1-5 where 5 is “most” expert.

Experts are not allowed to recommend the nonprofit where they work.

What questions do we ask in the survey?

This is the sample set of questions we asked Bay Area climate change experts. Questions are practically the same for all causes except, of course, for the name of the cause.
  1. Please recommend a Bay Area nonprofit working to address climate change that you think has had high impact in the last few years.
  2. Based on what evidence of impact are you making this recommendation?
  3. In addition to impact, what are other strengths of this organization (for example: leadership, staff,marketing, operations, finances)?
  4. Even high-impact nonprofits could further improve. In a few sentences, please share 2 or more areas for improvement for this nonprofit.
  5. Please recommend up to 2 new/start-up nonprofits located in and working on climate change in the Bay Area. Please describe why this organization is promising and/or in what way it is innovative.

    We publish all of the expert comments and reviews that we collect through this survey process on our website.

Want to learn even more? Read our Whitepaper:

Whitepaper full text

Whitepaper executive summary

Whitepaper presentation

Philanthropedia is a division of GuideStar, a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
Through independent research, Philanthropedia has leveraged the wisdom of 3128 experts to provide reviews on 783 top nonprofits across 48 causes.