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.

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:

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Good News in the Bad Economy

At this point the economic downturn has affected just about every single person in our country. The housing market has collapsed, investments are dwindling fast, jobs are disappearing, and a bailout plan is being hotly debated. As we have mentioned previously on this blog, charitable organizations are suffering as a result. Not only have a majority of organizations seen private contributions, government funding and other revenue drop, but simultaneously, demands for services have increased. The impact this has on charities will change the shape of the non profit world.

We have noted in the past that the IRS has a tendency to give out non-profit charity approvals "like candy". The current number of charities registered in the U.S. is over 900,000. In the midst of a suffering US economy, where it is anticipated that donations will be down in all categories, the competition for dollars will be fiercer than ever. Furthermore, the incredible number of charities that are soliciting donors can be overwhelming and confusing. So what is the good news in this?

We do think some positive changes for donors will occur as a result of the bad economy. We may finally see some poorly operated agencies close, and some providing redundant services merge. In other words, in some cases, there are more charities that are working on an issue than are necessary, and usually some are bad at it. This leads to an inefficient allocation of resources and by extension, a less effective impact. As agencies go through retrenchment, the smaller and less financially efficient charities will not be able to cut back enough to survive. This will leave more room for other, well prepared organizations to step in. These organizations should be able to expand their services, since there will be less competition for their donations. It is also conceivable that similar minded organizations will consider merging their operations, thereby cutting down on overhead costs and creating more efficient and leaner organizations.

This is not to minimize the down side. As we have noted elsewhere, the bad news in the bad economy is that vitally important services may be closed or downsized. However, the good news is that some of the worst-run organizations will no longer be competing for donations and it will be easier for donors to choose which organization to support. Also, due to mergers, more efficient organizations will be operating. This is good for donors and for the causes we care about.

Note: It is my pleasure to have collaborated on this blog entry with my colleague Leonie Giles who is a Program Analyst here at Charity Navigator. It was her idea to do this week’s entry and much of the content is in her own words. Thanks for your wonderful insights Leonie!