News and analysis
October 14, 2012

How The Chronicle Compiled Its Philanthropy 400 Rankings

The Philanthropy 400 ranks the charities that raised the most money from private sources in 2011.

The rankings include both cash and product donations as well as stock, land, and other gifts from individuals, corporations, and foundations.

The Philanthropy 400 is designed to show which groups do best in appealing to donors, so other types of income, such as government payments, are not counted.

Donations raised outside of the United States are also excluded, even if an organization has affiliates overseas.

Sources of Data

To gather data on private giving, The Chronicle used Internal Revenue Service Form 990 informational tax filings. It also examined financial statements, annual reports, and a survey sent to all nonprofits likely to be eligible to make the list.

Organizations with affiliates are asked to provide consolidated figures, which usually come from financial statements. Some religious groups, which are not required by law to file informational tax forms, volunteered the information used to rank them.

The 2012 rankings are based on donations raised during the fiscal year ending in 2011, or 2012 for organizations with fiscal years ending in January, February, or March. Twenty-three organizations said they could not provide 2011 figures, so The Chronicle used 2010 figures to rank them.

The Chronicle aims to draw all figures from similar sources so that it can compare data fairly.

In some cases, however, it’s not practical to use such data. For instance, because public colleges do not have to file informational returns, The Chronicle relies on data collected by the Council for Aid to Education for both public and private institutions.

The council, however, does not allow institutions to count pledges, which the 990 allows. As a result, the figures for colleges can be fairly compared with one another, but they may appear to be slightly lower than for other similarly sized institutions.

Noncash Gifts

It is also difficult to compare nonprofits whose revenues stem primarily from noncash products like medicines. Charities take different approaches to valuing their medicines and other goods, and some groups buy drugs and count them as donations.

Some nonprofits on The Chronicle’s list have in recent years adopted more conservative methods for valuing their goods, causing their revenues to fall by tens of millions of dollars.

The Chronicle aims to include all charities that may be eligible for the Philanthropy 400. To be considered, charities usually must have raised over $40-million in private support over the past year.

To suggest a group for inclusion in next year’s report, please send an e-mail to

The Philanthropy 400 was compiled by Marisa López-Rivera, with help from Noelle Barton, Peter Bolton, and Emily Gipple. Jeffrey Bates, Brieahn J. DeMeo, Star Jones, and Lola Keyes also contributed research assistance.