Monday, August 18, 2014

Have You Taken the #ALSIceBucketChallenge?

Unless you don’t use social media or you’ve taken a vacation from social media this summer, then you’ve probably seen a photo or video of a friend or celebrity being doused in icy cold water in the name of charity. What is this all about? Well, the premise is simple. If someone nominates you, then you have 24 hours to dump a bucket of ice water over your head or you must make a donation to an ALS related charity (of which Charity Navigator rates many).
Photo Credig: slgckgc


Not everyone is just having fun with this social media phenomenon. It appears some are actually donating to ALS charities. In fact, the ALS Association and its chapters say they have received $4 million in donations compared with just $1.2 million during the same period last year. And it says that it has picked up >70,000 new donors. That's music to the ears of people living with this insidious disease that has no cure!


While there is no disputing that this campaign has raised awareness and funding, there are some concerns about it.

  • In TIME, Jacob Davidson, whose father died from ALS, takes issue with the way the campaign is crafted. He says the campaign asks, “’Want to help fight this disease? No? Well, then you better dump some cold water on your head.’ The challenge even seems to be suggesting that being cold, wet, and uncomfortable is preferable to fighting ALS.” So he suggests that instead “maybe people could dump ice water on friends who haven’t donated as goofy way of encouraging others to give, or dump water on themselves before promising to donate.”
  • Project ALS told the Washington Post that the average donation per person is lower than it typically receives and wonders how many donors will maintain interest (and support) in the charity once the fad fades.
  • Slate’s Will Oremus wonders how much awareness this campaign has actually raised. He says “as for ‘raising awareness,’ few of the videos I’ve seen contain any substantive information about the disease, why the money is needed, or how it will be used.” He goes on to encourage people to (1) skip the whole challenge (2) support a charity of their choosing and then (3) suggest your friends and family do the same. At Charity Navigator we would clarify that by encouraging people to support a charity of their choosing that they’ve taken the time to research to ensure it is worth their donation.
  • Our very own Ken Berger pointed out on Airtalk Radio that he’s concerned that this is just a “flash in the ice bucket” and “that [the campaign]  doesn’t have long lasting memory [and that] it doesn’t really educate most people to the issue.” He said the biggest concern he has with these types of viral, flashy campaigns is that donors are giving based on an emotion and on an impulse. He notes that many aren’t taking the time to determine if “this charity is truly effective” and if “it meets its mission in a measurable way.”
As Mr. Berger notes, our main concern at Charity Navigator with such gimmicky fundraising appeals is that they perpetuate the lack of discussion around what should be the core issue – the charity’s impact and thus true worthiness of support. Thankfully, at least some of the donors are listening to Ken Berger and are taking the time to do their homework as evident by the 16,000 pageviews the ALS Association’s page on our site (the main charity behind this challenge) has received in the first 17 days of the month. That’s a >8,500% increase in pageviews compared to the same period of time last year.  And the good news for those checking our site, is that the charity does have our highest 4-star rating! 

But that doesn’t negate our concern about the next fundraising fad. Will it be a high-performing charity or a bad apple? Unless donors take the time to do their research, we will continue to run the risk that a ‘cool campaign’ will divert funding from those charities that are really making a difference in the world to one that simply is good at promotion.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Charitable Spirit of Robin Williams



Credit: Loren Javier

Yesterday, we learned that Robin Williams had tragically died at the age of 63. The news coverage since then has focused on what Williams was best known for - that of being an entertainer. But he was also a generous person who supported many charities during his life. Those include:






So as we mourn the loss of such a great performer, consider making a donation to one of his favorite charities as a way to celebrate his life and remember the many times he made us laugh.

8/15/14 Update: As Money Magazine points out, another "way to pay tribute to Robin Williams is to contribute to... top-rated charities that help people who struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts." Those orgs include:

And now that we've learned Robin Williams was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, you may want to support a charity that is working to find treatment and a cure for this disease. Of course, the most well-known of these is the 4-star rated Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research



Monday, August 11, 2014

Do The Charity Scores Look A Little Different Today?

Well, they should because we transitioned to a 100 point scale rating system today!

At Charity Navigator we've been rating charities on a 0 to 4-star scale since 2002. The star ratings are well-known and easily recognizable by individual donors, institutional funders, the media and the charities that we rate. What's been less understood is the scoring system - a 70 point scale - that underlies the star ratings. To resolve the confusion, all current and historical ratings transitioned to a more intuitive 100 point scale today. 



Although every charity's current and historical scores have changed, no charity's star ratings have changed. If your favorite charity was a 4-star charity yesterday, then it is still a 4-star charity today. The only thing that changed is that we've added 30 points to each of that charity's scores for financial health, accountability & transparency and overall score. 

Why did we make this change to our rating system? For two main reasons. First, we want to make it easier to understand for everyone who relies on our analysis. Second, it gives us more flexibility for making enhancements to our rating system in the future. 

For more information, please see the methodology section of our site or check our FAQs.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Beware of Job Scams Implying Association with Charity Navigator

Charity Navigator has been made aware of various correspondences, being circulated via e-mail, from Internet web sites, and via regular mail or facsimile, falsely stating that they are issued by, or in association with Charity Navigator and/or its officials. These scams, which may seek to obtain money and/or in many cases personal details from the recipients of such correspondence, are fraudulent.
Charity Navigator:
  • Does not charge a fee at any stage of the recruitment process (application, interview, processing, training or other fee). You can view our current job openings here.
  • Never requests any information related to bank accounts or other private information.
  • Does not offer checks, prizes, awards, funds, certificates, scholarships or conduct lotteries through e-mail, mail or fax.

If you have received a solicitation such as those described above:
  • Exercise extreme caution. Financial loss and identity theft could result from the transfer of money or personal information to those issuing such fraudulent correspondence. 
  • Report the scam to your local law enforcement authorities for appropriate action.
  • Bring the suspect communications to our attention here.
  • Should you have any doubts about the authenticity of an e-mail, letter or telephone communication purportedly from, for, or on behalf of Charity Navigator and/or its officials, please contact us directly before taking any further action in relation to the correspondence.

Current scam:
Please be advised that Charity Navigator is aware of a fraudulent job offer email scheme that people are receiving. It appears to come from Charity Navigator and its officials. The scammer requests personal information (name, address, SSN, etc.) and then sends a check with the stipulation that the recipient deposit it in their account, keep a small portion of the money and then wire the rest to an international location.

If you received this email, then please:
  • Send Charity Navigator all your correspondence with the scammer (including email headings) and copies of any checks you received here.
  • Do not deposit the fraudulent check.
  • Fill out a complaint for with the FBI Internet Scam Department here
  • Report the scammer to Google here and here
  • Some of the victims of this scam have told us that they posted a resume on Indeed.com. If you posted a resume there, then we encourage you report the scam to Indeed as well.




Friday, August 1, 2014

New Ratings for August

    Check out all the new ratings added and updated this month!