Charity Navigator (charitynavigator.org)
The biggest of the charity ratings groups, it looks at 5,500 organizations. Its current four-star system is based largely on financial criteria; a pending overhaul, expected to be launched in 2011, will add information on social effectiveness.
GiveWell offers detailed, equity research-like reports on nearly 400 nonprofits. It recommends just nine that pass its strict criteria.
GreatNonprofits, launched after Hurricane Katrina, gauges nonprofits through crowdsourcing. It allows clients, volunteers, and funders of nonprofits to post reviews based on their personal experiences.
GuideStar acts as a clearinghouse of information on nonprofits, with data from the Form 990 tax forms these groups must file as well as the reviews of GreatNonprofits.
Partners for Change (partners4change.org)
This new initiative aims to get research on nonprofits into the hands of financial advisers and their clients who give away at least $10,000 a year. The idea: to make it easy for individuals to mimic the portfolios of well-run foundations.
This recently launched effort asks experts for their opinions on social causes, such as education and Bay Area homelessness, and then uses the answers to create "expert mutual funds" with a dozen or so organizations or "holdings."
Root Cause (rootcause.org)
Root Cause's new research targets financial advisers with reports on nonprofits. Its first test series of reports was on school-readiness organizations.
Data: Bloomberg BusinessWeek