Posted 10/16/2011, Chronicles of Philanthropy

The 2011 Philanthropy 400 ranks the charities that raised the most money in private donations in 2010.

Cash and gifts of other types, including stock, real estate, and other noncash donations, are counted in each organization’s tally. Government support and other revenue, such as investment earnings, are not. As a result, the 400 measures the organizations that are most successful in appealing to donors; it leaves out groups that have grown large primarily from government support.

Sources of Data

The Chronicle’s rankings include information from charities’ Form 990s, the informational tax return that they must file annually with the Internal Revenue Service. Additional sources of data include annual reports, financial statements, and a Chronicle survey.

The newspaper asks nonprofits with affiliates to report consolidated data that show the full extent of fund raising by groups under a single umbrella.

In addition, The Chronicle asks religious groups to provide financial data, even though they are not required to disclose information publicly because of laws that protect separation of church and state. Many religious organizations agreed to provide the data and made the rankings.

The 2011 ranking is based on domestic donations raised in the fiscal year that ended in 2010, or in 2011 for organizations with fiscal years ending in January, February, or March. Twenty groups said the most recent data they could provide was for 2009, so The Chronicle used those figures to rank them.

No donations raised outside the United States are counted, even if an organization has international affiliates.

Comparing the Numbers

While The Chronicle seeks to make sure all the figures are drawn from comparable sources, that is not always possible.

For colleges, the rankings rely on totals provided by the Council for Aid to Education, in New York. That approach makes it possible to show comparable figures for public and private institutions, since only private colleges file a federal informational tax form. However, the council doesn’t allow colleges to count pledges, as do tax returns, so the totals for higher-education institutions cannot be directly compared with those from other groups.

International groups, meanwhile, use such widely different interpretations of accounting rules that it is tough to compare their figures.

In particular, groups that rely on noncash gifts like medicines take very different approaches to valuing those drugs, which cause some groups to look bigger than they would otherwise.

Some nonprofits have lowered the values they place on their medicines in recent years, causing their rankings to drop. For example, Feed the Children dropped from No. 4 to No. 25 on The Chronicle’s list, in part because in 2010 it took a more conservative approach to valuing certain drugs.

More information about the charities on the Philanthropy 400 is posted on The Chronicle’s Web site. Data on charities’ expenses, such as fund-raising and program costs, are available in a searchable database at

The Chronicle seeks to include all charities that might be eligible for the Philanthropy 400. To be considered, charities must typically have raised $40-million in the past year. To suggest a group for inclusion in next year’s survey, send an e-mail to

The Philanthropy 400 was compiled by Noelle Barton, Peter Bolton, and Marisa López-Rivera, with assistance from Denise Kokinis.


One response »

  1. Pingback: List of America’s Top 400 Charities released « Philanthropylady

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