Charity Review

  • Issued: May 2016
  • Expires: July 2018

Catholic Relief Services

Accredited Charity

Meets Standards


228 West Lexington Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-3443
Accredited Charity


228 West Lexington Street
Baltimore, MD 21201-3443
Accredited Charity

Accredited Charity

Meets Standards

Standards For Charity Accountability


  1. Board Oversight

    Standard 1 (Oversight of Operations and Staff)

    Organizations shall have a board of directors that provides adequate oversight of the charity's operations and its staff. Indication of adequate oversight includes, but is not limited to, regularly scheduled appraisals of the CEO's performance, evidence of disbursement controls such as board approval of the budget, fund raising practices, establishment of a conflict of interest policy, and establishment of accounting procedures sufficient to safeguard charity finances.

    The organization meets this standard.

  2. Board Size

    Standard 2 (Number of Board Members)

    Soliciting organizations shall have a board of directors with a minimum of five voting members.

    The organization meets this standard.

  3. Board Meetings

    Standard 3 (Frequency and Attendance of Board Meetings)

    An organization shall have a minimum of three evenly spaced meetings per year of the full governing body with a majority in attendance, with face-to-face participation. A conference call of the full board can substitute for one of the three meetings of the governing body. For all meetings, alternative modes of participation are acceptable for those with physical disabilities.

    The organization meets this standard.

  4. Board Compensation

    Standard 4 (Compensated Board Members)

    Not more than one or 10% (whichever is greater) directly or indirectly compensated person(s) serving as voting member(s) of the board. Compensated members shall not serve as the board's chair or treasurer.

    The organization meets this standard.

  5. Conflict of Interest

    Standard 5 (Conflict of Interest)

    No transaction(s) in which any board or staff members have material conflicting interests with the charity resulting from any relationship or business affiliation. Factors that will be considered when concluding whether or not a related party transaction constitutes a conflict of interest and if such a conflict is material, include, but are not limited to: any arm's length procedures established by the charity; the size of the transaction relative to like expenses of the charity; whether the interested party participated in the board vote on the transaction; if competitive bids were sought and whether the transaction is one-time, recurring or ongoing.

    The organization meets this standard.

Measuring Effectiveness

  1. Effectiveness Policy

    Standard 6 (Board Policy on Effectiveness)

    Have a board policy of assessing, no less than every two years, the organization's performance and effectiveness and of determining future actions required to achieve its mission.

    The organization meets this standard.

  2. Effectiveness Report

    Standard 7 (Board Approval of Written Report on Effectiveness)

    Submit to the organization's governing body, for its approval, a written report that outlines the results of the aforementioned performance and effectiveness assessment and recommendations for future actions.

    The organization meets this standard.


  1. Program Expenses

    Standard 8 (Program Service Expense Ratio)

    Spend at least 65% of its total expenses on program activities.

    The organization meets this standard.

  2. Fundraising Expenses

    Standard 9 (Fund Raising Expense Ratio)

    Spending should be no more than 35% of related contributions on fund raising. Related contributions include donations, legacies, and other gifts received as a result of fund raising efforts.

    The organization meets this standard.

  3. Accumulating Funds

    Standard 10 (Ending Net Assets)

    Avoid accumulating funds that could be used for current program activities. To meet this standard, the charity's unrestricted net assets available for use should not be more than three times the size of the past year's expenses or three times the size of the current year's budget, whichever is higher.

    The organization meets this standard.

  4. Audit Report

    Standard 11 (Financial Statements)

    Make available to all, on request, complete annual financial statements prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. When total annual gross income exceeds $500,000, these statements should be audited in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards. For charities whose annual gross income is less than $500,000, a review by a certified public accountant is sufficient to meet this standard. For charities whose annual gross income is less than $250,000, an internally produced, complete financial statement is sufficient to meet this standard.

    The organization meets this standard.

  5. Detailed Expense Breakdown

    Standard 12 (Detailed Functional Breakdown of Expenses)

    Include in the financial statements a breakdown of expenses (e.g., salaries, travel, postage, etc.) that shows what portion of these expenses was allocated to program, fund raising, and administrative activities. If the charity has more than one major program category, the schedule should provide a breakdown for each category.

    The organization meets this standard.

  6. Accurate Expense Reporting

    Standard 13 (Accuracy of Expenses in Financial Statements)

    Accurately report the charity's expenses, including any joint cost allocations, in its financial statements. For example, audited or unaudited statements which inaccurately claim zero fund raising expenses or otherwise understate the amount a charity spends on fund raising, and/or overstate the amount it spends on programs will not meet this standard.

    The organization meets this standard.

  7. Budget Plan

    Standard 14 (Budget)

    Have a board-approved annual budget for its current fiscal year, outlining projected expenses for major program activities, fund raising, and administration.

    The organization meets this standard.

Fundraising & Info

  1. Truthful Materials

    Standard 15 (Misleading Appeals)

    Have solicitations and informational materials, distributed by any means, that are accurate, truthful and not misleading, both in whole and in part. Appeals that omit a clear description of program(s) for which contributions are sought will not meet this standard. A charity should also be able to substantiate that the timing and nature of its expenditures are in accordance with what is stated, expressed, or implied in the charity's solicitations.

    The organization meets this standard.

  2. Annual Report

    Standard 16 (Annual Report)

    Have an annual report available to all, on request, that includes: (a) the organization's mission statement, (b) a summary of the past year's program service accomplishments, (c) a roster of the officers and members of the board of directors, (d) financial information that includes (i) total income in the past fiscal year, (ii) expenses in the same program, fund raising and administrative categories as in the financial statements, and (iii) ending net assets.

    The organization meets this standard.

  3. Website Disclosures

    Standard 17 (Web Site Disclosures)

    Include on any charity websites that solicit contributions, the same information that is recommended for annual reports, as well as the mailing address of the charity and electronic access to its most recent IRS Form 990.

    The organization meets this standard.

  4. Donor Privacy

    Standard 18 (Privacy for Written Appeals & Internet Privacy)

    Address privacy concerns of donors by (a) providing in written appeals, at least annually, a means (e.g., such as a check off box) for both new and continuing donors to inform the charity if they do not want their name and address shared outside the organization, (b) providing a clear, prominent and easily accessible privacy policy on any of its websites that tells visitors (i) what information, if any, is being collected about them by the charity and how this information will be used, (ii) how to contact the charity to review personal information collected and request corrections, (iii) how to inform the charity (e.g., a check off box) that the visitor does not wish his/her personal information to be shared outside the organization, and (iv) what security measures the charity has in place to protect personal information.

    The organization meets this standard.

  5. Cause Marketing Disclosures

    Standard 19 (Cause Related Marketing)

    Clearly disclose how the charity benefits from the sale of products or services (i.e., cause-related marketing) that state or imply that a charity will benefit from a consumer sale or transaction. Such promotions should disclose, at the point of solicitation: (a) the actual or anticipated portion of the purchase price that will benefit the charity (e.g., 5 cents will be contributed to abc charity for every xyz company product sold), (b) the duration of the campaign (e.g., the month of October), (c) any maximum or guaranteed minimum contribution amount (e.g., up to a maximum of $200,000).

    The organization meets this standard.

  6. Complaints

    Standard 20 (Complaints)

    Respond promptly to and act on complaints brought to its attention by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance and/or local Better Business Bureaus about fund raising practices, privacy policy violations and/or other issues.

    The organization meets this standard.


Catholic Relief Services meets the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.


Number of complaints processed by the BBB in the last 36 months: 3.

Mailing List/Phone List Removal/Failure to Receive Donation Receipt

The organization addressed the complaint issues brought to its attention: 3.

(These complaints involve an individual seeking to have his or her name and contact information removed from the organization's mailing and/or telemarketing list).


  • Year, State Incorporated

    1943, DC

  • Affiliates

    GRAINE (Burkina Faso, West Africa)
    Horizontl Foundation (Macedonia)
    USTOI Foundation (Bulgaria)

  • Stated Purpose

    to carry out the commitment of the Bishops of the United States to assist the poor and vulnerable overseas; to cherish, preserve and uphold the sacredness and dignity of all human life, foster charity and justice, and embody Catholic social and moral teaching as motivated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.


CRS reports that it is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States and seeks to promote human development by responding to major emergencies, fight disease and poverty, nurture peaceful and just societies, and serve Catholics in the United States. The organization works in 101 countries with 1,105 partners to provide assistance to people in need. In 2014, CRS reports that 85 million individuals benefited from its programs. In addition, the organization reports that it operated 204 emergency projects, 191 agriculture projects, 134 health projects, 103 peace building projects, and 80 education projects.

For the year ended September 30, 2014, Catholic Relief Services's program expenses were:

Emergency $230,112,000
Agriculture $146,446,000
Health $68,882,000
Education $57,112,000
HIV and AIDS $39,518,000
Peace and justice $30,797,000
Water and sanitation $14,559,000
Welfare $6,328,000
Small enterprise $5,525,000
Total Program Expenses: $599,279,000

Governance & Staff

  • Chief Executive

    Carolyn Woo, President and Chief Executive Officer

  • Compensation*


  • Chair of the Board

    Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

  • Chair's Profession / Business Affiliation

    Archbishop of Oklahoma City

  • Board Size


  • Paid Staff Size


*2014 compensation includes annual salary and, if applicable, benefit plans, expense accounts, and other allowances.


Method(s) Used:

Direct mail, telemarketing, print advertisements, television, grant proposals, Internet appeals, planned giving, cause-related marketing, and parish appeals.

CRS incurred joint costs of $1,418,000 for informational materials and activities that included fund raising materials. Of those costs $1,077,680 was allocated to program expenses and $340,320 was allocated to fund raising expenses.

Fundraising costs were 4% of related contributions. (Related contributions, which totaled $684,122,000, are donations received as a result of fundraising activities.)

Tax Status

This organization is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. It is eligible to receive contributions deductible as charitable donations for federal income tax purposes.


The following information is based on Catholic Relief Services's audited financial statements for the year ended September 30, 2014.

Source of Funds
United States government grants and agreements $226,179,000
Private contributions $169,387,000
Donated agriculture, other commodities and ocean freight $102,027,000
Other public grants and contributions $83,706,000
Foundation and other private grants $40,196,000
Bequests $21,599,000
Catholic Relief Services Collection $14,621,000
Public in-kind gifts $11,974,000
Realized and unrealized gain on investments and financial instruments $11,078,000
Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl $7,922,000
Net change in annuities, trusts and pooled income fund $3,691,000
Investment and other income $3,364,000
Private in-kind gifts $2,820,000
Total Income $698,564,000
  • Programs: 92%
  • Fundraising: 5%
  • Administrative: 3%
Total Income $698,564,000
Program expenses $599,279,000
Fundraising expenses $29,683,000
Administrative expenses $22,334,000
Other expenses $0
Total expenses: $651,296,000
Income in Excess of Expenses $47,268,000
Beginning Net Assets $184,248,000
Other Changes In Net Assets ($5,583,000)
Ending Net Assets $225,933,000
Total Liabilities $260,526,000
Total Assets $486,459,000

Note 1: According to the audited financial statements for the fiscal year September 30, 2014, CRS received $116,821,000 in contributed goods and services including agricultural commodities donated by USAID and USDA ($60,625,000), ocean freight provided by donors ($30,151,000), medical supplies and other tangible assets ($12,464,000), commodities provided by the UN and other donors ($11,251,000), and donated services ($2,330,000). Note 2: As noted in the above financial section, "other changes in net assets" refers to defined benefit plan adjustments ($-1,384,000) and asset impairment ($-4,199,000).

An organization may change its practices at any time without notice. A copy of this report has been shared with the organization prior to publication. It is not intended to recommend or deprecate, and is furnished solely to assist you in exercising your own judgment. If the report is about a charity and states the charity meets or does not meet the Standards for Charity Accountability, it reflects the results of an evaluation of information and materials provided voluntarily by the charity. The name Better Business Bureau is a registered service mark of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc.

This report is not to be used for fundraising or promotional purposes.