Welcome to Charity Navigator's Blog!

The team from Charity Navigator, the nation's largest independent charity evaluator and leading donor advocate, shares their thoughts on emerging nonprofit-sector issues and offers tips to better inform your intelligent giving decisions.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Tick Tock

The clock is ticking! You have just a few hours left to make a gift to a qualified charitable organization in order to reduce your 2008 tax bill.
  • Go to Charity Navigator’s site now and give online by clicking on the ‘Donate Now’ button located on your favorite charity’s ratings page. An added benefit of giving through our site is that you’ll be able to access your 2008 giving history when you are ready to complete your tax return.
  • And if our evaluations have helped guide your charitable decisions this year, we hope you’ll consider a donation to Charity Navigator. We are a 501 (c)(3) public charity and donations to us are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Follow Your Charitable Investment

Once you give this holiday season, remember to contact your charity next March or April and find out how they're using your money. You’re not looking for a list of itemized expenses, but instead a progress report to give you a sense of how responsive they are to you and if they can communicate their progress clearly. If your charity can’t tell you what kind of results they created from your investment, find one that will.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Did Your Charity Get Lost In The Election Funding Crunch?

Billions of dollars were spent on the 2008 presidential election. Unfortunately, some of this money was diverted from good charities that were looking for it when their donors decided to invest in the campaigns instead. Some charities - those that were able to capitalize on the issues - actually benefit from contentious campaigns. But others - usually smaller, local ones who lack the resources to tie their marketing campaigns in with the election issues - suffer. Find out if your charity took a hit this year when their expected donors turned away from the charity, and towards the candidates, and if so, see if you can help.

Friday, December 26, 2008

December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month

We’ve created a short video that highlights financially sound charities working to prevent drunk and drugged driving. You can learn more about the many ways to support the cause and find out about which highly-rated charities are working to prevent driving under the influence. You can watch the video here and find an expanded list of organizations involved with this cause here.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Food For The Poor

We at charity navigator would like to applaud Food For The Poor for earning their 8th consecutive 4-star rating. This is the first charity in our database to achieve this feat. We commend Food For The Poor for their commitment to responsible philanthropy.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Did You Know?

  • Slightly less than half of the organizations evaluated by Charity Navigator have accumulated at least a year's worth of working capital to fall back on during economic downturns.
  • During December 2007, nearly ten thousand donors accessed Charity Navigator's ratings and subsequently gave more than $1.6 million online through the site. More than 2,200 charities were on the receiving end of all this generosity.
  • Of the more than 5,000 charities evaluated by Charity Navigator, the vast majority spend at least 75% of their budgets on the programs and services that they exist to provide, 10% or less on fundraising fees and 15% or less on administrative costs.
Visit our site to read more Holiday Factoids.

Ken's Commentary

Check out the two new posts on Ken's blog:
  1. Feeling the Pain 
  2. Ten Ebeneezer Charities

Monday, December 22, 2008

Two Reasons To Avoid Bell Ringers

  1. Dropping some change in the bucket outside the mall is fine, but responsible philanthropy, the kind that changes the world, is more sophisticated.
  2. You can't deduct the change you drop in a bucket without a receipt.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Seeing Stars

We’ve got great news for donors! News that should help you feel good about giving this holiday season. The majority of charities on our site have 3 and 4-star ratings, meaning that they are good stewards of donors' contributions.

Here’s the current distribution of star ratings among the 5,300+ charities on our site:
31% have 4-stars
36% have 3-stars
23% have 2-stars
9% have 1-star
1% have 0-stars

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Jon & Kate Plus St. Jude

Product placement seems to be the way of the future for advertising with all sorts of consumer goods making appearances in our favorite TV shows and movies. Now it seems that charities are getting in on the act.

Recently, I came across an episode of Jon and Kate Plus Eight in which the Gosselin family visited the 4-star St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I’m not sure who funded this - Kmart, where the family shopped for gifts for the kids in the hospital, Despereaux, the story that Kate read to the children, or some other sponsor – but I am sure it was a boon to St. Jude.

From the beautiful murals on the walls, to the parent’s testimonials, to the children’s smiles, to the dedicated staff, the public got to see how the hospital helps children and their families. This one show probably did more to expand this charity’s brand and generate contributions than conventional types of marketing and fundraising approaches (such as special events and direct mail appeals) could ever do. As such, I doubt this will be the last we’ll be seeing of charity product placement.

Year-End Giving and the Economy

The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University recently found that confidence in raising contributions is at an all time low among the approximately 160 fundraisers that responded to their survey. Charity Navigator’s survey, in which 741 nonprofit professionals responded, shows a more mixed outlook with varying confidence levels by mission and location.

Toys for Tots Sees Increased Demand This Year

The latest in how the economy is negatively impacting charities comes from the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation. The charity, which gives toys to needy children during the holidays, is receiving increased requests for toys this year while experiencing decreased donations. Receiving our highest rating for the past three years, Marine Toys for Tots Foundation has demonstrated its commitment to financial health; if you are interested in helping a child in need during the holidays, consider making a donation to this well-rated charity.

Support the Troops

We know many Americans intend on supporting the troops at this time of year. So we've compiled a list of the highest and lowest rated charities that offer services to the military, their families, wounded soldiers and veterans.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Corporate Givers Use Charity Navigator

Commtouch, a firm specializing in the development of anti-spam and other software to protect e-mail, recently used Charity Navigator to identify a charity worth supporting. Visit the company’s blog, Commtouch CafĂ©, to find out why they picked the 4-star charity Trickle Up.

December Update Part II

In an effort to provide charitable donors with the most up-to-date information available for year end giving decisions, today we publish another 245 updated ratings and offer both new and updated Top Ten lists. In this tight economy, make your contributions count by using our trusted and unbiased evaluations.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Mission Statements - Not Just for Charities

An article in The Wall Street Journal points out that high-end donors are creating mission statements to guide their charitable endeavors. But this best practice should be followed by all donors- no matter how much, or how little they have to give. In fact, it is the first tip in our article Top 10 Best Practices of Savvy Donors.

Monday, December 15, 2008

American Idol Stops Giving Back

The extremely popular and successful American Idol "Idol Gives Back" episode will not happen this upcoming season. Citing concerns over unemployement and the overall weak economy the program does not feel it would be appropriate to ask for donations from the American public. The show, a charity telethon, has run during American Idol's season 6 and 7 and has raised over $130 million. The money was then dolled out to various charities. The timing and reasoning is curious as these charities most likely could use the money now more than ever.

Charities Hurt by Madoff Scandal

Many wealthy investors have lost their personal fortunes thanks to Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Sadly, as several articles point out, many charities have also fallen victim.

Our President's Views on Giving and the Recession

Check out the latest entry in Ken's Commentary- Is Giving Recession Proof?

Food Bank Bailout for New Jersey

As part of a New Jersey energy assistance bill, food banks in New Jersey that have been hit hard by increased demand and economic hardships will receive $3 million in funds. New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine plans to sign a food, energy assistance bill which totals $22.5 million. The balance of the funds will go to those who are having difficulties paying their utility bills and those facing foreclosure.

Friday, December 12, 2008

NPR to cut Staff and Programming

In another saddening story of tough economic times impacting the non-profit sector, National Public Radio (NPR) has announced it will be making cutbacks due to a $23-million dollar budget shortfall. According to an article in the Washington Post, NPR is laying off about 7% of its workforce and eliminating two programs, “Day to Day” and “News & Notes.”

We’ve been watching closely as the changing economy has forced arts organizations to file for bankruptcy and food pantries have seen unprecedented demands for their services. The news from NPR is yet another face of the financial crisis – demonstrating that many organizations are now unable to provide the same services they did in fairer economic weather. Our ratings show that NPR’s primary revenue dropped from $162 million in 2004 to $133 million in 2006, but they have consistently earned three stars in our efficiency category. Even charities that are operating efficiently aren’t immune to the pressures of the current economy, and while they may not disappear completely, some of their programs might. As our President notes, it is an important time to give what you can. You can be sure your charity, and the many lives that it impacts, will be thankful for every penny.

Small Charities Must File

Thanks to a provision in the Pension Protection Act of 2006, small charities are no longer exempt from filing annually with the IRS. Starting this year, charities with gross receipts of $25,000 or less must file the Form 990-N. Also known as the e-Postcard, this simple document is due by the 15th day of the 5th month after a small charity’s fiscal year ends. If a charity fails to file the Form 990-N for three consecutive years, then the group will lose its tax-exempt status.

You can check to see if your favorite small charity has filed its Form 990-N by visiting the IRS website. But don’t expect to learn much about the charity’s operations from this report as it only provides very basic information about the charity (such as name, address and website).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Finish Your Holiday Shopping Today!

Sunday is the last day that you can purchase a plastic Good Card - a gift card for charity where you get the tax-deduction and the recipient gets to support their favorite charity - if you want it delivered in time for Christmas. You still have time to buy Good Cards if you plan to send them electronically.

Buy A Good Card Now!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Inspiring Last Lecture

Beliefnet named Randy Pausch the Most Inspiring Person of 2008. Mr. Pausch was the professor, diagnosed with a terminal disease, who gave the famous Last Lecture about living life to the most. If you were inspired by his message, then you may want to support a highly-rated pancreatic cancer charity in his honor.

Baltimore Opera Files for Bankruptcy Protection Under Chapter 11

We’ve heard consistent reports of how current economic conditions are negatively impacting many charities. In the news this week is the Baltimore Opera Company, which recently filed for bankruptcy protection according to National Public Radio. The company has cancelled the remainder of the 2008-2009 season and is not refunding money to ticket holders. This recent news confirms our evaluation of the Baltimore Opera as financially unstable. Their current overall rating is two stars, with only one star in the organizational capacity category. In the past they have earned only one star overall. This indicates they have insufficient cash reserves and have shown minimal growth in recent years. If you are interested in supporting the arts or your local performing arts organization, visit us to locate a program in your area, or choose a highly-rated arts organization here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Shopping for a Cause

Check out this BusinessWeek TV spot that includes an interview with Charity Navigator's President & CEO:

Friday, December 5, 2008

Toward a More Comprehensive Rating System

Click here to read the latest entry in Ken's Commentary - A Measure of Outcome - where our President and CEO outlines Charity Navigator's long term plans to expand our rating system to include outcome measurement.

Charity Navigator's Celebrity Fans Live On Stage Tonight

Tonight, Twisted Sister performs  A Twisted Christmas On Broadway. What does this have to do with Charity Navigator? Other than the fact that some of our staff is attending the concert, it turns out that singer Dee Snider and guitarist Jay Jay French use Charity Navigator to make informed giving decisions. And knowing that many of their fans make charitable contributions at this time of year, these rock legends have been encouraging their followers to take a closer look at the charities seeking their support by accessing Charity Navigator’s ratings.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Museum Declares Bankruptcy

As we’ve been saying for months now, the troubled economy has impacted organizations throughout the charitable sector. The most recent casualty is COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts. According to this recent article, the California food and wine museum has filed for bankruptcy. Although they plan to restructure operations and re-open the museum, this problem would have been avoided if they had successfully addressed the issues of minimal growth and limited rainy day funds which were revealed in our ratings. As our current evaluation shows, this organization is far from financially healthy, receiving just one star overall. Past ratings also show that this is a long term problem, with an overall rating of just two stars in prior years.

Especially in these times of economic uncertainty, it is important that donors support organizations that will do the most with their money. If you’re an arts lover, consider supporting a highly rated museum.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

December Update

Yesterday we published 393 updated ratings, 13 new charity evaluations, more new top 10 lists, articles and hot topics all in an effort to help you make smart giving decisions during this holiday season.

Best Web Site

For the third year in a row, Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine has named Charity Navigator as one of the "Best Web Sites in America."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Each day, based on a particular holiday (like Thanksgiving) or current event, Charity Navigator’s experts select 4-5 highly-rated charities to highlight. Subscribe now.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hale House Changing Programs

In order to "serve a much larger population of children" Hale House has closed its residential program and is now offering other community services. The organization now provides day care services for children and transitional housing for homeless families and children. The change ends the long run of the orphanage for children founded back in 1969 by Mother Clara Hale which focused on assisting Aids infected and drug addicted babies.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Words of Wisdom from a Famous Philanthropist

"It's more difficult to give money away intelligently than it is to earn it in the first place."
Andrew Carnegie
Born November 25, 1835

He didn’t have access to Charity Navigator to help him give intelligently, but you do. Today, we seek your support so that we can continue to help donors make smart giving decisions in 2009 and for years to come.

Monday, November 24, 2008

An Opinion And An Interview

Check out this weeks blog on Ken's Commentary - Boundless Optimism, No Money. You can also view Ken's interview on the National Fox News Channel on 11-21-08.

Dire Predictions for Charities

We have indicated before that charities are facing a multitude of problems in today’s economic environment. This was backed by a forum on the impact of the crisis on non profits and social service delivery. Decreasing donations and government funding, paired with a simultaneous increase in demand for services are challenging for even the most well positioned organizations. Speakers at the forum are predicting the closing of up to 100,000 organizations, and urge non-profits, who are often very reluctant to merge, to start collaborating on back office support and health care plans. If you feel inclined to help financially healthy organizations weather this storm, you can find a list of charities that have received our highest rating by clicking here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Celebrity-Related Charities

Celebrity involvement in charities is a topic of interest to many people. While some celebs can be proud of their philanthropic efforts, others are not quite so successful. This recent article highlights 10 celebrities and their less than stellar charitable efforts. Three of the charities mentioned are organizations that have been rated poorly by Charity Navigator. With a rating of 2 stars, the The Larry King Cardiac Foundation spends more than 20% of its budget on fundraising. The Magic Johnson Foundation, rated 1 star, spends nearly as much money on administrative support as it does to run its programs. And Dyan Cannon’s Operation Lookout receives our lowest rating, 0 stars, primarily because it spends almost 70% of its budget to raise money, leaving less than 30% to spend on its programs.

You can see a list of 10 Celebrity-Related Charities on Charity Navigator’s website, and see for yourself how varied the results can be where charity and celebrity collide.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Outlook Not So Bleak

One of our 4-star charities, World Vision, just released the results of a survey inquiring about the public’s year-end giving plans. This poll offers some hope for charities that are concerned about their ability to raise funds this holiday season. Specifically, the results indicate that while many Americas are planning to curb their consumer good purchases, they do not plan to decrease their charitable investments. Furthermore, it appears that many Americans are planning to take Charity Navigator’s advice and marry philanthropy and gift giving.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A New Charity's Dream - To Earn A 4-Star Rating

Earlier this month, I was a guest lecture at Seton Hall’s Nonprofit Sector Resource Institute’s Financial Management Certificate Program. Participants in the program include executive directors, fundraisers, financial managers, board members as well as individuals considering a career change from the for-profit to the nonprofit sector.

My presentation focused on how charity raters use financial information. The goal was not to transform the participants into Charity Navigator analysts, but rather to help them understand how donors – individuals, foundations and corporations – view their fiscal health. After the class, many of the participants indicated that they planned to return to their office to take another look at their finances from the viewpoint of a funder.

One of those was Luis Ramirez, the founder and president of the brand new charity Global CDH. He started the charity this past year after his daughter – beautiful Isabela – was born with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia. I admire his energy and his vision! Along with his full-time job and the responsibilities that come with being a new dad of a child with serious health issues, he’s made a major commitment to helping other families cope the diagnosis of CDH. While his charity is both too new and too small to meet our criteria for evaluation, Luis has his eye on the goal of someday becoming a financially efficient, 4-star charity.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Help the Victims of the California Wildfires

Wildfires continue to devastate parts of California. Fires over the past week have destroyed over 1,000 homes. As firefighters begin to get the fires under control many residents have lost all and are headed to shelters and to other non-profits for assistance. If you would like to help the victims please consider supporting some of these highly rated charities: The American Red Cross, Direct Relief International, The San Diego Foundation, Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego.

Fundraisers Speak Out

Are you curious to know how the economy is impacting the fundraising efforts of large charities across America? We were. So we posed this and other questions to the executives at several of our 4-star charities.

During the course of the discussion, here’s what some of them had to say:
  • “Just as the economy is forcing a shake-out in the for-profit sector, I believe this climate will push many charities to become lean and efficient. Competition for donors, dollars, and public awareness will lead to more mergers and partnerships -- and that's healthy for all of us.”- Cynthia Allen Smith, chief development officer, Central Florida YMCA
  • "I'd like to encourage individuals to be selective and focused in making their charitable giving decisions... When donors make the choice to write larger checks to a smaller number of organizations, it allows them to be more connected with the organizations they support, and also allows nonprofit organizations to operate more efficiently and effectively." - Amy Robinson, vice president of development at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Denver
  • “I always encourage supporting a charity through ‘philanthropic shopping.’ I think this is an admirable and important way to support nonprofit organizations while spreading their mission.” - Kimber Leblicq, director of membership and development, Seattle Audubon Society
Visit the roundtable to read all of their candid responses.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Congratulations Outstanding Philanthropists John and Marion Dugan

In celebration of National Philanthropy Day, the regional chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals has selected Charity Navigator’s Founders and Board Co-Chairs, John and Marion Dugan, as this year's Outstanding Philanthropists.

The Dugans are some of the Hudson Valley’s greatest philanthropists with a long record of exceptional generosity. They have given millions of dollars not just to us, but to historical societies, colleges, and scholarship organizations.

The board and staff of Charity Navigator applaud their significant philanthropic accomplishments and we thank them for having the vision to create a service to help benevolent citizens make informed giving decisions.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thanks for Giving

As we embark on the season of giving, Charity Navigator would like to thank all of our donors--past, present and those yet to join us--for your tangible support of the work we do to help the giving public make wise and informed decisions about which charities are deserving of their hard-earned philanthropic dollars. As one donor puts it, "Your site has been a real boon to us when planning contributions...Thank you for the work you do." Comments like this really underscore our mission, why we are here, and truly invigorate us all. We here at Charity Navigator extend our best wishes to you for the holiday season. Once again, thanks for giving--it means a great deal to us and to all of the deserving charities your generosity supports.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Financial Trouble for Opera Pacific

California-based Opera Pacific recently announced that it was cancelling the remainder of its 2008-2009 season, and anticipates closing its doors completely. The company blames the recent economic crisis and its impact on donations, but the problem might have been avoided if the company had focused more on its long term growth. As our evaluation shows, Opera Pacific’s performance in the area of Organizational Capacity is poor; this indicates that the company is not well positioned to sustain itself over time. This isn’t a new problem for the organization; in each of the last four evaluations we have performed, Opera Pacific has received just one out of four possible stars in the area of Organizational Capacity.

This is just further evidence that donors should give to financially healthy organizations, because those that aren’t healthy might not be around for long. If you’re an opera lover, consider donating to one of these highly-rated opera companies, and help preserve the future of this art form.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

Today, Veterans Day, is a day that America pauses to honor all military veterans. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed an Armistice Day back in 1919. Then in 1954 the word "Armistice" was replaced with Veterans. With America currently in the midst of two wars, now more than ever it is important to stop and think about the service men and women who serve our country. We should also keep in mind the sacrifices their families make. Today is a great day to thank a veteran with either a hand shake, a letter or a financial contribution. If you would like to support a related charity, our home page is currently featuring highly rated charities that assist veterans and their families.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Bloggers Unite For Refugees

Bloggers Unite

Bloggers Unite has teamed up with Refugees United to address the global problem of refugees becoming separated from their families.

Charity Navigator is happy to participate and raise awareness about this cause. We encourage donors to learn more about and support highly-rated charities working to help refugees.

Charity Search API

We recently created a Charity Search API that let's you access our database of charities in your favorite programming language. This means you can now access Charity Navigator's search from other sites, applications, and environments. To get started, all you need is an Application ID. Learn more about the search API.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Charity News Roundup

In case you missed them, here are some recent stories in the news about charities. Not surprisingly, the stories this week center on politics, the economy, and the upcoming holiday season.

Movember Is Here

Yes, it is Movember! The month of the year when men everywhere grow a "Mo" (moustache) in the name of Men's health. You and your cleanly shaved face can register at the Movember site and raise money for the cause by getting sponsors for your facial hair growth. Then just grow your "Mo" until the end of the month. It is all in the name of charity with the proceeds going to the Prostate Cancer Foundation. Who knew you could raise money for charity simply by putting your razor away for a few weeks?

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Housing Solutions

It’s no secret that the current economic outlook is bleak. These days it almost seems like nothing can be done to ease the pain stemming from America’s credit crisis; homelessness is on the rise, and it could take years before we see any real effects from the rescue plan that was recently signed into law. But take heart – there are well-run organizations out there doing their part to provide relief for individuals facing foreclosure. These charities give families many options to keep a roof over their heads, ranging from temporary housing services, to counseling, to small business loans. You can get involved by supporting these critical housing services at a time when they are so desperately needed.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Famous Plumber Plans Charity

Joe Wurzelbacher, AKA Joe the Plumber, says his future plans include creating a new charity. With nearly 1 million charities in America, we’re not sure that we need more, but we wish him well.

Michael Crichton Loses Battle With Cancer

Best selling author Michael Crichton has passed away from cancer. Crichton is best known for writing "Jurassic Park", "The Andromeda Strain" and for creating the television show "ER." Crichton was born in Chicago in 1942 and graduated Harvard University and Harvard Medical School.

Year-End-Giving Tips

Now that the presidential election is over, it is time to turn our thoughts to the holidays and year-end-giving.

To help you ensure that your holiday donations best reach their intended good causes, we've published a Holiday Giving Guide. It includes a list of giving tips, a video of our president & CEO explaining those tips, and a roundtable discussion with charity leaders. To help you navigate the thousands of charities on our site, we also offer a listing of top and bottom scoring charities for each of the 34 causes of charities that we rate. We’ve even included a holiday giving factoid section that you might find interesting.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Charity Navigator's President & CEO in China

Charity Navigator's president & CEO, Ken Berger, is in Beijing at the 2008 Global Philanthropy Forum. Please visit his blog to view video highlights from his presentation.

Candidates' Hometown Charities

With the election just 24 hours away, we thought it would be a good time to highlight 4-star charities in the candidates’ home states.

Republican Ticket
Presidential Candidate John McCain – Senator from Arizona
VP Candidate Sarah Palin – Governor of Alaska

Democratic Ticket
Presidential Candidate Barack Obama – Senator from Illinois
VP Candidate Joe Biden – Senator from Delaware

Saturday, November 1, 2008

November Update

At Charity Navigator we have historically found that Americans begin to seriously consider their year end charitable giving plans during the months of November and December. With that in mind, we are working hard to bring you more new and updated charity evaluations, giving tips and articles.

Today we published 450 updated ratings, 33 new charity evaluations, more new top 10 lists, articles and hot topics.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Domestic Violence Month Update

By now many of you have heard or read about the terrible tragedy that claimed the lives of three members of actress Jennifer Hudson’s family. Hudson’s mother, brother, and nephew were found shot to death earlier this week in Chicago. While the police have not arrested anyone in connection with crime, Hudson’s brother-in-law remains a person of interest in the case and is currently being held on other charges. This sad story has brought extensive media coverage to a topic we’ve been discussing all month – domestic violence in America. In addition to supporting a highly-rated charity on our site with a monetary donation, you can also help with a non-cash donation to your local shelter. The three-star Shelter for Abused Women & Children in Naples, Florida is looking for many non-perishable food items.

Always Do Your Homework

One of the pieces of advice we give donors on our website is not to donate any money over the phone, and if possible, avoid the middleman by giving to a charity directly. This article from the Sun Chronicle shows once again how important it is for donors to do their homework, and contact the charity they wish to support directly. In addition, a quick check on Charity Navigator’s website would have shown the Firefighters Charitable Foundation with a 0 star rating, indicating that this organization performs far below industry standards and below nearly all charities in its cause.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Help the Victims of the Earthquake in Pakistan

A 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit southwest Pakistan on Wednesday causing over 150 deaths, more than 500 injuries and leaving thousands homeless. If you are interested in supporting a charity that is assisting please review a list of organizations here.

Museums Prepare for the Worst

The economy’s impact on charities’ donations and services has been the topic of many of our recent blogs. While many charities are finding themselves hit with the double impact of increased need for services and decreased financial resources, some charities are fearing that their programs will simply no longer be considered necessary as Americans cut back on their spending. Museums in particular are preparing themselves for a drastic reduction in donations, many taking preventative steps to avoid a future crisis. As this recent New York Times article reports, museums are instituting hiring freezes, cutting their budgets, offering lower-end products in their gift shops and making more creative choices about the exhibitions they will offer. Nearly all of the museums mentioned in this article are highly rated by Charity Navigator, indicating that they have historically made good decisions about their financial operations and are well positioned to sustain themselves in the long run. These highly rated museums include the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (4 Stars), Metropolitan Museum of Art (4 Stars), The Museum of Modern Art (4 Stars), National Gallery of Art (4 Stars), The Art Institute of Chicago (3 Stars) and Brooklyn Museum (3 Stars).
If you are an arts lover, we urge you to consider making a contribution to one of these museums, or browse a list of highly rated museums on our site. Remember, a contribution now can help ensure that these important institutions will be around in the future.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Theater CEO Compensation Under Fire

Bloomberg takes a closer look at the compensation practices at several nonprofit theaters and quotes Ken Berger, Charity Navigator's president & CEO, in the article.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

In an USA Today article about the economy's impact on nonprofits, Charity Navigator's president & CEO is quoted as saying "many charities are between a rock and a hard place, being asked to do more with less."

Wal-Mart Foundation and Charity Navigator - On the Same Page

The President of Wall-Mart’s Foundation agrees with Charity Navigator’s President that the economic crisis may ultimately improve the philanthropic marketplace by forcing charities offering redundant services to collaborate.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ken's Commentary has some good news for charities

This weeks entry on Ken's Commentary is titled, "A win-win strategy - the graying of charities". Click here to get read it.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Charity News Roundup

In case you missed it, here are some of the headlines making news this week:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Palin's Philanthropy: Part 2

Previously, we reported that Governor Palin and her husband gave $3,325 to charity in '07 .

Now, we hear that she’ll be donating her new wardrobe to charity after the campaign. With some Goodwills reporting a lack of inventory to meet the increased demand for their merchandise, Palin’s donation is good news for one lucky charity.

United Way Funding In PA

As United Ways across the country tighten the focus of their philanthropic efforts, charities dependent upon United Way funding are being left out in the cold. In Philadelphia, nine such charities have launched an ad campaign to help generate enough donations to replace the revenues they used to receive from the United Way of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ken's Commentary Strikes Again!

Click here to check out this weeks entry in Ken's commentary - Bad Charities with Heart!

Separating the Best from the Rest

As we have mentioned before, at Charity Navigator we like to celebrate the work of financially healthy organizations. We believe our ratings are a helpful tool for organizations to show that they are fiscally responsible, and that donors can give with confidence. We think Compassion International is doing a great job sharing this valuable information with their audience.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Homelessness on the Rise

USA Today is reporting an ‘alarming’ increase in the number of homeless families in cities across America. At Charity Navigator, we’ve been concerned for some time about the growing demand for programs that serve the less fortunate including those that specifically provide assistance to homeless individuals and families.

Pink Philanthropy

Although October is recognized as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, these days you can find pink ribbons on countless commercial products year-round. But just how charitable are you when you purchase a product adorned with a pink ribbon? In the video below, Charity Navigator explains how it all works and recommends some high-performing breast cancer charities worthy of your support.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Foundation Finder

Charity Navigator does not provide direct services or financial assistance to individuals, families and charities. However, we recognize that most people, at one time or another, need help. If you are in need, feel free to use our website, www.charitynavigator.org, to locate a charity providing the services you require. We list each charity’s direct contact information on their ratings page. Alternatively, you can use the Foundation Center's database to identify funding sources.

Get the Foundation Finder widget and many other great free widgets at Widgetbox!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Charity News Roundup

In case you missed it, here are some of the headlines making news this week:

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Are Universities Overly Endowed?

Are Universities Overly Endowed?

In his opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times, Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa discusses the use of college endowments in the wake of increasing costs for higher education. College endowments have enjoyed high growths and college tuitions have steadily increased. Harvard University's endowment grew 19.8% from 2006 to 2007, to $34.6 billion; Yale University's endowment by 25%, to $22.5 billion; and Stanford University’s endowment by 21.9% to $17.2 billion. At the same time, tuition has increased by double digits every five years over the last two decades, according to the College Board.

Senator Grassley asked experts “why colleges can't draw on their bulging endowments to increase student aid or forgo tuition increases?” Some explanation as to why colleges shouldn’t use their endowments were: budget cuts by the state are making public institution fund operations on their own; donors decide how donation should be used; and it costs more than the tuition to educate a student so colleges are subsidizing higher education.

So just how are college endowments being used and how does this effect you? It all comes down to taxes. Universities are exempt from paying federal income tax on their operating income, they don’t have to pay tax on their endowment investment income, and donations to the colleges are tax deductable. These tax incentives were put into place so that universities would be able to fulfill their charitable purpose of educating students. Senator Grassley suggests that congress should place a tax on university endowments if it exceeds a certain amount but wants to see colleges initiate self-correction on college affordability.

In an effort to keep higher education affordable, should congress consider imposing a tax on high university endowments?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Poverty Day

Thousands of sites have agreed to hold conversations around the issue of poverty today - Blog Action Day 2008.

Charity Navigator is happy to do our part to raise awareness by encouraging donors to learn more about and support highly-rated charities tackling this complex issue.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Nonprofit Mergers & Alliances

In an article examining the impact of the economic slump on charities, Ken Berger advocates that charities look for ways to partner with other nonprofits. Visit  his blog to read more about his thoughts on how the current economy may force more organizations to collaborate, merge or close.

Concerns about CFC Charities

The Combined Federal Campaign, a program that encourages Federal civilian, postal and military donors to give part of their pay checks to charity, is the nation's largest workplace giving campaign.

Just how big is it? In 2007, Federal employees gave over $270 million. And since its launch in 1961, the CFC has generated nearly $6 billion in contributions.

Unfortunately, our analysis shows that some of the charities on the receiving end of all this generosity are not the most efficient.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Check Out Ken's Commentary

Click here to check out this weeks entry on Ken's Commentary - The Front Line versus The Bottom Line.

Forrest Gump Inspires

Who says the youth of today are lazy? 21 year old Dan Popp of New Jersey has decided to run across the county in order to raise money and awareness for his favorite charity, the Center for Food Action. Inspired by the movie Forrest Gump, Dan decided to run from New Jersey to San Francisco over a six month time period. He expects to run an average of five hours a day covering 17 miles each day. Wow, I am tired just thinking about that kind of daily schedule. Dan seems to be testing the notion; can one person make a difference? His journey could not come at a better time as many food banks and emergency food programs are being stretched thin with high demand. For those of you not prepared to run across the country for charity you can still make a difference by supporting an efficient charity with a financial contribution. In fact, you don't even have to leave the house in order to help out. Just log on to your computer and go to www.charitynavigator.org. And if you are interested, you can follow Dan's journey at www.runthestates.org. Good luck Dan!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Charity News Roundup

In case you missed it, here are some of the headlines making news this week:

  • Tumbling markets in the U.S. and around the world have been dominating headlines as the effects reach individuals of every age, occupation, and income level. Charities are feeling the results of the economic crunch as well. New York City nonprofits are reporting decreased revenue after losing corporate sponsors due to the financial crisis, creating what one article called “A perfect storm.” These partnerships, sometimes called strategic philanthropy because of the advantages for both charities and corporations, have become popular recently, according to a Financial Times article. Colorado charities are reporting similar troubles, according to Rocky Mountain News. America’s wealthiest families are also reducing their contributions according to an article in Forbes Magazine.
  • As America’s philanthropic environment evolves, charities are looking for new ways to reach more donors and renew support. A recent USA today article, titled “The new face of giving,” reported young donors are becoming increasingly involved in charity campaigns, especially with evolving donation technologies, such as mobile giving. Read the article to see more about these and other giving trends.
  • As we all are gearing up for the holiday giving season, USA today has published a good article on “Donating do’s and don’ts.”
  • Finally, there is good news for several charities who received large donations recently to boost revenue during tough times. PetSmart pledged $13.8 million to build seven new spay/neuter clinics in Los Angeles, and the San Diego Symphony, after a $120 million gift from the Jacobs family, is prepared to open this season revitalized, to sold-out concerts and rapid growth. See the San Diego Symphony’s recent growth and success reflected in their four star Charity Navigator rating here.

American Red Cross Bailout

As previously mentioned on this blog, the American Red Cross’ emergency funds have been depleted, and the organization has been struggling with its fundraising efforts. In an extraordinary move, the Red Cross asked Congress for $150 million in funds to make up for the $260 million in disaster relief spent this year alone. While a fundraising campaign has brought in $42 million so far, the organization had to borrow $200 million to cover its costs. This week, Congress promised $100 million to replenish emergency funds.

If you feel compelled to help the Red Cross reach their goal, you can review our rating of the organization and donate directly via our website by clicking here.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Domestic violence impacts over two million men and women each year. Often kept a private matter – it is estimated only 50% of cases are reported to police – you may be unaware of individuals in your own life who have been victims of an attack. In general, you likely have had much more exposure to domestic violence in the mainstream media. Consider these recent cases, which appeared with headlines such as:

- Deadly student-teacher love triangle, husband charged with shooting high school student (Associated Press, March 19, 2007)
- Jealousy tied to murder-suicide of steroids dealer, bodybuilding ex-girlfriend (Dallas Morning News, July 13, 2008)
- Wife killed “over cyber affair” (BBC News, December 3, 2007)

These examples represent the most extreme episodes, with complicated back stories or odd plot twists. While the media often features cases with attention-grabbing titles like the ones listed above, there are hundreds of thousands of incidents that never make the headlines. Bizarre, complicated breaking-news cases often overshadow the more common non-fatal abuse cases that happen every day. As a result public perception of domestic violence can be skewed when viewers see only the stories that earn coverage. The good news is there are many organizations that focus on educating and informing communities and individuals about all types and degrees of violence. By learning why and how intimate attacks occur, we can work towards reducing, and ultimately preventing, domestic violence.

During the month of October, which is nationally recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, take time to look past dramatic headlines. Use the Charity Navigator website to find a shelter or outreach program in your area, or watch the short video below. Think of neighbors, friends, and family members that may be affected, and use this month to support, protect, and educate yourself and others about domestic violence.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

New Blog - Ken's Commentary

Dear Reader,

After three months of writing weekly commentary on issues in the charitable sector on this blog site, effective today I am moving to a new blog site called Ken's Commentary. For an explanation of why I am making this move, see my first entry on the new blog site (click here). I hope that you will visit there often to read the weekly entries. This Charity Navigator blog site will continue as well and remain focused on news from the field.

All the Best,


What's in a Name?

Recently, two very large well known charities have changed their names. America's Second Harvest, the nation's largest charitable hunger-relief organization, has changed their name to Feeding America. Y-Me National Breast Cancer Organization has changed their name to Breast Cancer Network of Strength. The question arises as to whether or not it is a good idea to change the name of an established organization? Both of these charities have been around for approximately 30 years and so they have built some level of name recognition over that time. Many experts believe changing the name of an organization is not advisable without compelling reasons to do so. In the past, some charities have had difficulties after a name change. It is an interesting question to debate. We would be happy to hear your thoughts on this issue.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Palin's Philanthropy

In a previous blog, we looked at Democratic vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden’s giving and we promised to tell you about Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s when that information became available. Her campaign just disclosed that Sarah and Todd Palin gave $4,880 to charity in 2006 and $3,325 in 2007.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Creative Approach for Arts Organizations

This recent Los Angeles Times article reports that arts organizations are using creativity to keep their revenue up during difficult financial times. No stranger to financial crisis, arts organizations have been seeing lower income since 2001, when a series of events including the World Trade Center attacks turned donors’ focus to more humanitarian causes. Since that time, dance companies, museums, symphonies and operas alike have been thinking of new ways to draw in audiences, including fresh approaches to traditional performances and expanded performance experiences. While many organizations have successfully increased attendance, there is a real danger that giving to arts organizations may drop off even further in the coming months. If you’re an arts lover, consider making a donation to one of these highly rated arts organizations and help secure the future of these important institutions.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Charity News Roundup

In case you missed it, here are some of the headlines making news this week: