How We Do It: Vetting and Selecting

Apply (January‐February)

At the beginning of each year, some 200 charitable organizations apply to be included in the Catalogue for Philanthropy. All applicants must have 501c3 status with budgets under $3 million, be located in Greater Washington (the District of Columbia and nearby Maryland and Virginia counties) and, unless they are headquartered here but serve internationally, provide significant services in this region. Find details about our application here.

Assemble Review Team (February‐March)

Once applications are processed, over 100 reviewers from foundations, corporate giving programs, peer nonprofits, local government agencies, and the philanthropic advisory community are matched with applicants in the reviewers’ fields of expertise.

Begin the Review Process (March‐April)

  • Program Review: Reviewers judge applications based on their assessment of the need each organization exists to meet, the quality of the programs it creates to meet those needs, its leadership and staffing, and the evidence of the organization’s impact. Most applications receive 5 to 8 reviews, some more than that.
  • Financial Review: A team of financial reviewers from Raffa, PC assesses the financial soundness of potential finalists. Among other things, the team looks for reasonable year‐to‐year projections of expenses and revenue, appropriate ratios of administrative to program costs (though there is no absolute cut‐off), reasonable salaries, board participation in fundraising and development, and fiscal transparency.
  • Site Visits: All reviewers are asked if they have site visited an organization within the past three years. Positive site visits confirm positive reviews. Negative site visits generate a phone call. Any organization that has not been visited by our review team will be visited by Catalogue staff. PLEASE NOTE that in the case of international organizations headquartered in this region, our reviewers meet with locally-based Executive Directors and/or the US-based team; we do not site visit international organizations in the countries in which they operate.

Create the Vetted List (May)

Our goal is to create a balanced list of great nonprofits in all fields: we don’t want all of our nonprofits to fall within one category – for example all arts organizations or all programs that serve the elderly. While final decisions are editorial, they are always guided by the rankings and comments of our review team!