This past week, because a couple of people were out of the office, I was called upon to respond to all of the media inquiries that came in. The calls came from all over the country - from Charlotte to Los Angeles to Colorado Springs, and then some. The nature of the calls is instructive as a sampling of the issues that are on the minds of the public:
1. 30% of the calls involved some type of questionable behavior or worse (Board self-dealing, extravagant events that lost many tens of thousands, relatives on the payroll, etc.).
2. 40% involved excessive compensation either for a CEO or private fundraiser.
I know that controversy attracts an audience, however it also gives a false sense to the general public of the nature and integrity of most non-profits. Of the roughly 5,300 charities that are rated by Charity Navigator, 65% are rated Good to Excellent. If we include those that meet or nearly meet industry standards, the percentage reaches about 88%.
The good news is that, in addition to the calls we got, an equal or greater number of media reports were published quoting letters we sent to charities that were recently given a four star rating by us. However, I suspect that the more prominently displayed, "headline grabber" articles, describe the controversies mentioned above. That is what most people remember. As usual, the few bad apples are giving the entire non-profit sector a black eye.