Thursday, December 8, 2016

Women Give 2016

Image from IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy

Women Give 2016, a report by the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, explores “whether generational shifts in charitable giving intersect with women’s changing decision-making roles within families.” Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Women Give 2016 is the first study to explore the impact of gender and generation on charitable giving.

Research shows that when women participate in charitable decision making, millennial and Gen X couples tend to give more, at an average of $1,385 annually, up from the $1,269 when only men decide how to give.

Image from IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy
“Conventional wisdom says younger generations—Millennials and Gen Xers—are less generous than their predecessors. However, a closer look reveals that giving by young single women Gen Xers/Millennials is holding steady compared to their counterparts 40 years ago; giving by single men and married couples, on the other hand, has dropped.”

And in terms of fundraising, “evidence suggests that these conversations will be more effective if the conversational content resonates with the motivations and preferences of women.” You can read the full report here.

Investing in women and girls is an impactful way to make a difference in the lives of millions. Explore our Hot Topic on 3 and 4 star charities focusing their efforts on supporting women and girls locally and internationally. These charities work on a variety of different causes and issues, such as education, health, social services, and women’s rights.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day

Remembering Pearl Harbor today? Consider donating to highly-rated charities such as:

Find more charities that support veterans and active duty servicemembers on our site.

Donors Give More on this Day, than Any Other Day of the Year

Towards the end of October 2015, we launched the Giving Basket – a tool that makes it easy for our users to donate on our site. Looking back at the data, we see that Giving Basket donors gave at a pretty constant rate for most of November 2015. In early December 2015, we see a moderate uptick in giving around #GivingTuesday. After that, giving steadily grew until it spiked right around New Year's.  

Just how big was this bump in donations at the end of the year? Well, 56% of all the donations that flowed through the Giving Basket in November and December occurred in the last 5 days of the year. And 25% took place just on New Year's Eve. Furthermore, this isn't just a trend seen in our data. Other giving reports show the same pattern.

So, what’s driving all this giving just before and on New Year’s Eve? Although donors often site other motivating factors when asked about their year end giving, it seems that the obvious answer is the charitable tax deduction. That’s because donors who wish to take advantage of this tax break must make their donations before the end of the year.   

Whether or not the tax benefits of giving motivated you to donate, be sure you know how much you can deduct, what types of contributions are deductible and how to best itemize deductions on your income taxes. Check out our tips now for help in answering these important questions.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

One of "America's Worst Charities" Closes Down

Photo by Hitchster
At Charity Navigator, our work to guide intelligent giving means not only highlighting effective organizations, but also informing donors about organizations which are performing poorly. Shiloh International Ministries was one such organization. Over the 13 years in which we evaluated the organization, only once did it receive anything above a 0-star rating, and then, in 2005, it only earned 1 star.

Shiloh International Ministries, highlighted by the Tampa Bay Times as one of America’s Worst Charities, has now closed down. The organization, which according to the article has also operated under the names Handicapped Children's Services of America, American Veterans Network, Adolescent AIDS Foundation, and Help Hospitalized Children Fund, is no longer listed on the IRS Business Master File, which lists all exempt organizations registered with the IRS.

While there are many reasons for this organization’s chronically low rating, one factor was the high amount spent by the organization on fundraising. In the organization’s most recent rating, Shiloh International Ministries spent 81.9% of its total expenses on fundraising, 13.2% on administrative expenses and just 4.7% on program activities - which go toward fulfilling an organization’s mission.  Only 2 of the over 8,000 charities that we rate spends that little on programming and only 5 spend that much on fundraising.

The organization also failed to follow many industry best practices, including not having a CEO compensation process, not reporting CEO compensation on its annual Form 990, filed with the IRS, and having no independent voting board members.

We hope that during this holiday season, you find Charity Navigator a helpful resource in making your giving choices and are able to avoid organizations which won’t use your donation wisely!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Metric Mondays #8: Conflict of Interest

Last week, we focused on fundraising expenses. Today’s Metric Monday will address conflict of interest.

Like the name alludes, a conflict of interest occurs when an individual’s obligation to further the organization's charitable purpose is at odds with his own financial interest. A conflict of interest policy therefore has two directives: to encourage disclosure of potential conflict, and protect both the organization and, by extension, those it serves. When enforced, this kind of awareness and abstention from voting on matters involving conflict serve to strengthen an organization’s governance practices. Without one, or without enforcing it, an organization is vulnerable and may be subjected to intermediate sanctions if a conflict occurs. In extreme cases, this may also put its tax-exempt status at risk if the organization is not operating in a manner consistent with its charitable purpose.

Hopefully you remember our Metric Monday: Loans to/from Interested Parties post. In it we provided a fit example of a potential conflict of interest that must be managed by a nonprofit. In that post, we learned that while it’s legal for employees and trustees to make personal or business loans to a charity, the corresponding influence that person may gain over governance proceedings puts the organization at risk and must be guarded against. A conflict of interest does not include questions involving a person’s respective duties to two organizations, such as serving on the boards of both organizations, when it does not involve a material financial interest of, or benefit to, that person.

Although nonprofits are not required to publicly share the content of their conflict of interest policies, we review the Form 990 to make sure charities report having one in place. It is good industry practice that staff and board review this policy on a frequent basis and organizational leadership understand how to best manage conflicts when they are revealed. In our evaluations, we deduct 4 points from the Accountability and Transparency score when this policy is absent.
To learn more about our Accountability & Transparency metrics, check out our Accountability & Transparency Methodology.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

International Volunteer Day

Volunteerism is one of the contributions that we, as general citizens of our society, use to impact positive developments within our world. Mandated by the United Nations General Assembly in 1985, December 5th is annually recognized as International Volunteer Day. This celebration gives organizations and volunteers the opportunity to make their efforts and contributions recognized on a local, national, and international level by agencies, communities, government authorities, and more.

The calls to action that volunteerism represent highlight the initiative of people to come together and improve the quality of life for all beneficiaries. The United Nations Volunteers Programme mobilizes UN volunteers to serve in UN agencies, in both peacekeeping operations and development programs. Their dual mission of promoting volunteerism and mobilizing volunteers has been practical, in parts due to their online volunteering service. This service allows organizations and volunteers to team up and tackle sustainable development challenges through online volunteering from any device.

According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 62.5 million people volunteered through or for an organization in 2015. The importance of volunteerism is not to be understated, as it is estimated that American volunteers complete the equivalence in work, of about 9 million full time employees. Everyone has the choice of volunteering, as there are thousands of different ways to make a positive and sustainable difference in your, or someone else’s community.

All it takes is one action to make the world a better place for everyone to share. Whether you donate your time at a youth center, volunteer to be a tutor, or even provide disaster relief for those in need, your efforts help change lives for the better on a daily basis. Public service and volunteer opportunities are available through numerous federal organizations such as the Peace Corps, Citizen Corps, Joining Forces, and many more. International Volunteer Day not only recognizes volunteerism, but it celebrates the kindness and selflessness that millions of people display on a day to day basis, for the greater good of society and humanity as a whole.

For International Volunteer Day 2016, recognize those who dedicate their time to creating a better community for everybody involved or take the initiative to become a volunteer yourself. You can get started by using our site to create a list of charities that match your interests and are located near your home. Then follow up with each charity directly to find out how you can help. Be sure to check out our Guide To Volunteering for more tips.

IRA Charitable Rollover

 [Photo credit: Lending Memo]
Last year, President Obama signed the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015 into law. Included in this package of changes to tax code is a permanent inclusion of IRS Charitable Rollover. This permanent change removes the uncertainty that has cropped up several times in recent years; after originally expiring in 2008, the incentive was temporarily renewed 5 times.

The IRA Charitable Rollover allows individuals who are 70 1/2 years old to donate up to $100,000 to charitable organizations directly from their IRA, without that donation being counted as taxable income when it is withdrawn. To qualify, contributions must come from a traditional IRA or Roth IRA, and they must be made directly to a public charity. Additionally, the donor may not receive goods or services in exchange for the donation, and they must retain a receipt from each charity to which a donation is made.

Giving incentives such as the IRA Charitable Rollover have a tremendous impact on the social sector. According to Independent Sector, the provision led to more than $140 million in gifts during its first two years.  Because it is available to taxpayers whether or not they itemize their tax returns, the rollover helps older Americans, who are more likely not to file itemized returns. Extending this charitable provision permanently provides needed clarity in the tax code and allows for Americans to make giving decisions without wondering whether the provision will continue to exist.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Charity Mailing Addresses Explained

With the giving season upon us, donors will be receiving a multitude of appeal letters from various organizations. Donors using our website will often note that the mailing address that they find on these appeals and the physical address that we list for that same organization are different. This can cause confusion and often leads a donor to question whether or not the appeal letter is genuine. However, this is a perfectly valid and common practice for nonprofit organizations.

There are a variety of reasons that an organization’s mailing address would differ from their physical address, but the most common reason that this occurs is that the organization may be using a professional gift processing center. These firms are contracted by the charity to efficiently and safely process your donation. The use of gift processing centers can help take the burden of processing donations off of the organization’s often small development team, which in turn allows for faster and cheaper donation processing. In addition, these centers provide security measures that would be impossible in most nonprofit offices. These measures can include banning employees from bringing in bags, not allowing trash cans and using extensive security cameras to monitor the staff. This is all so that donors can rest assured that their donation will be processed effectively and will get to the organization that it was intended for.

Additionally, organizations with a multitude of branches or chapters may have a designated donation processing office of their own. Donation requests by various office locations may simply be directing their donations toward their more centralized development offices, where specialized employees of the organization are better equipped to process and document your donation.

When available, we include an organization’s donation mailing address alongside their physical address in the Charity Contact Info box, located in the upper left corner of a rated organization’s listing. However, not having a listed mailing address does not necessarily mean that the organization does not utilize one.

If you are concerned about a solicitation you receive for any reason, we encourage you to contact the organizations directly. You can do this by either visiting their website’s “Contact Us” page, or by using the contact information that we provide for rated organizations at