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, April 30, 2008

Tornados Hit Virginia

The US has seen roughly 700 tornados already this year, including the ones that hit Virginia earlier this week. We know that many Americans want to give generously when these types of natural disasters occur, so we offer a list of Tips For Giving In Times Of Crisis to help you make an informed giving decision.

If you specifically want to help those struggling to put their lives back together in Virginia, then you may want to make a donation to the American Red Cross. Although many local groups are probably providing assistance, the Red Cross appears to be the only large, national charity that is responding at this point.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Charity Malls: A Good Excuse To Spend Money?

Charity Malls are becoming more popular as a means of fundraising for charities, and have received some attention because of it. Charity Malls let users donate money to their favorite charities simply by using a specific website as a starting point for their shopping, and selecting the charity of their choice as the recipient for any money they have ‘raised’. As a result, many of you have asked us to rate these online malls, and asked us about the validity of the charity malls’ claims that merely going about your regular online activities will somehow result in donations to the charity you specify.

The Charity Malls that purport to help charities raise money must earn money in order to pay the organizations. Charity Malls receive a percentage of revenues from the stores where purchases were made, and in turn, donate a portion of that percentage to the charities.

While it does no harm to use these sites, be aware that most of them are set up as for-profit companies, and as such, we are unable to evaluate them. In addition, it is sometimes hard to find out exactly how much of revenue is donated to charity (for examples see Benevolink, The Hunger Site, and Buy for Charity.), and the majority of charity malls do not vet the charities allowed to benefit from use of the site.

Therefore, if you choose to use one of these types of websites we suggest you research which charity mall to use, and that you pick a benefactor that has been highly rated by Charity Navigator. And since only a very small percentage of a charity’s revenue is generated via charity malls, don’t let your shopping experience be a substitute for writing the charity a check with a tax deductible donation.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Fortune 500 Charity List

According to the 2008 Fortune 500 list, Wal-Mart is the largest publicly traded company in America. Its revenues last year were $378.8 billion. Total revenue for all the companies included in the list was $10.6 trillion.

How do America’s largest charities stack up? If the list was expanded to include nonprofits, then the American Red Cross, with $5.86 billion in total revenue, would appear at number 417. And Harvard University, with $4.99 billion in total revenue, would also make the cut landing in the 470th spot. Together, the 500 largest charities in our database generated ­­$144.3 billion in total revenue.

Given that many nonprofits are relatively comparable in size to our country’s largest firms, shouldn’t there be some sort of federal regulatory agency, like the SEC, to monitor and regulate charities?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Cars, Cell Phones, Old Computers... Now Dentures?

From clothes, to toaster ovens to old laptops, there seems to be a charity that’s devised a plan for turning these used goods into cash to fund their philanthropic endeavors. But have you ever considered donating used dentures? That’s just what Japanese donors are being asked to do.

The Japan Society for the Recycling of Dentures is able to turn the average denture into 3,000 yen by selling the metal components of false teeth. According to UNICEF, one of the charities receiving funding from the program, each recycled denture enables it to purchase eight blankets.

I wonder if this will catch on in America. Will we one day see our roads lined with denture donation billboards instead of car donation appeals? Somehow I doubt it.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Countdown to Mother's Day

With Mother’s Day less than a month away, are you looking for a meaningful gift for mom? It’s hard to think of a more thoughtful gift than making a charitable donation in her honor. But, maybe you’re not sure which charity your mom is interested in supporting. No problem. Purchasing a Good Card gives her the ability to pick the charity to receive the donation.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Scuppies, It's Your Day

Today, scuppies and other environmentally concerned individuals, celebrate Earth Day. Since 1970, environmental activist have rallied on April 22 to remind us that we need to take better care of our planet. If you feel a connection with this cause and are interested in funding a well-run environmental group, then check out our list of Earth Day charities. On our site, you can also browse an expanded list of Environmental charities or check out which charities are tackling the issue of Global Warming.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rising Food Prices Hurt the Poor Locally and Globally

The rising cost of food is taking a toll on people and charities at home and abroad. In the United States skyrocketing food prices are have the greatest impact on the nation’s food banks. For example:

  • In Pennsylvania “food pantries are reporting that demand has increased anywhere from 30 percent to 400 percent, and many are dangerously low on food supplies.”
  • A Michigan food pantry that used to serve 1,500 families now assists 4,000 families.
  • A food bank in Illinois that “usually has about 3 million pounds of food in stock . . . now has only about 1.5 million pounds due to the sharp increase in client demand.”

You can browse Charity Navigator’s ratings of over 130 local food banks to find a food bank near you to support with your donations of food or money.

Internationally, the sharp rise in food prices has sparked protests and riots all over the world, including Egypt, Indonesia, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Peru, the Philippines, Haiti, Bangladesh, and South Africa. The dramatic increase in the cost of food has affected some of the world’s poorest people and the organizations that provide them with aid. The price of a metric ton of rice, for example, has risen from $460 in early March to near $780 now. If you would like to assist international aid groups affected by rising food prices, you can select from this list of charities fighting hunger around the world.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Season of Big Giving Ends Tonight

Tonight is the season finale of Oprah’s Big Give, the reality TV show that requires contestants to pull off amazing charitable feats each week or face elimination.

Oprah is no stranger to extreme philanthropy. Five times she’s been included in the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s list of the 50 most-generous Americans. Last year, she gave more than $50 million to various charities including the 4-star Oprah’s Angel Network that she founded 10 years ago.

Friday, April 18, 2008

How Charitable Is Your Favorite Politician?

Many politicians give substantial sums to charity. Let’s take a look:

Considering the giving records of these politicians, it was surprising to learn that New York Governor David Paterson and his wife only gave $150 worth of used clothes to charity last year. Hopefully, they paid attention to the new laws governing donations of noncash gifts and made sure that the clothing was in "good used condition or better.”

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

When The Economy Slumps, Charities Hurt Twice

When the economy falters, charities that assist the poor face the twin problems of increased demand for their services and decreased support from donors who have less money available for charitable contributions. From Hawaii to Florida nonprofits are feeling the pinch due to the encroaching recession. The toll that the economic downturn is taking on the poor is evidenced by the record 28 million people that are expected to use Food Stamps this year. If you would like to do your part to help both charities and people affected by the current economic climate, you can browse the list of charities featured here and select a charity that matches your interests. Some charities such as Modest Needs and Bishop Sullivan Center even allow donors to select, from a list of pre-screened applicants, the needy person or family who will benefit from their donation.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tax Day

The April 15th deadline for paying taxes has arrived. If you haven’t completed your tax return or if you’d like to better understand how your charitable endeavors can impact what you owe the government next year, then check out our article and videos for tips on how to maximize the tax benefits of your philanthropic activities.

Monday, April 14, 2008

7-Year-Old Thailand Boy Survives by Finding Food in Trash

How can you not be touched by CNN’s story of an orphan who lives off of food he finds in a dump? How could you not want to do something, anything, to help?

On CNN’s Impact page, you’ll find the Mae Tao Clinic and Planet Care/ GHAP listed as organizations providing assistance. Many potential donors have contacted Charity Navigator asking for assistance in evaluating these two groups. Here’s what (little) we know.

The Mae Tao Clinic is a NGO based in Thailand. It is not a 501 (c) (3) public charity. Therefore, it has partnered with Planet Care/GHAP, a 501(c)(3) public charity, to facilitate donations from US donors. Although we do not currently evaluate Planet Care/GHAP (it doesn’t meet our criteria for inclusion), there are some steps you can take to make an informed decision about it. Those steps can be found in our article Evaluating Charities Not Currently Rated by Charity Navigator. Or you may prefer to check out our interactive map for a list of well-known, highly-rated charities working in Burma and Thailand.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Charity Pay: How Much Is Too Much?

On our site, donors are chatting up a storm about CEO Compensation. Donors are expressing their outrage at what they perceive to be excessive CEO pay at charities like the American Cancer Society, USO, American Heart Association, Easter Seals, National Headquarters, Trinity Broadcasting Network, and Wildlife Conservation Society. With the average American earning under $40,000, it is easy to see why nonprofit CEO salaries as low as $133,510 are drawing criticism.

While it is true that some charity executives receive outrageously high salaries, our research shows that the typical charity CEO earns about $145,000 a year. We’re talking about multi-million dollar operations that require leaders that possess both savvy business skills as well as the expertise to meet the institution’s charitable goals. So really, isn’t this level of compensation reasonable?

In fact, $145,000 looks like a bargain when we contrast it with what their corporate counterparts are earning. According to USA Today and Salary.com, corporate CEOs are paid about $1 million annually. Add to that their various stock options and bonuses and corporate leaders are taking home $11 million a year.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Fewer Taxpayers Donate Refunds via Checkoff Programs

USA Today is reporting that fewer taxpayers are giving their refunds to charity.

According to the article, every state collecting income taxes offers its citizens the opportunity to direct refund checks to charity. But this method of giving seems to be falling out of favor. For example, in Oregon more than 120,000 taxpayers took advantage of this opportunity in 1996, but only about 85,000 did so last year. Charities blame the increased competition (inclusion of more charities in the program over the years) for the attrition of donors. Despite the declines in giving, many charities are still clamoring to be added to the various state income tax checkoff programs.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Red Cross Hires New President

While it was perhaps the most scandalous resignation among its presidents, Mark Everson departure from the American Red Cross this past November wasn’t the first time the charity has undergone a change in leadership. With four presidents ousted in just six years, there’s been a revolving door outside the president’s office.

Yesterday, the Red Cross announced that Gail J. McGovern will be the charity’s new leader. While we wish her all the best, Ms. McGovern’s assignment will not be easy. The charity is facing a $200 million deficit, and considering the ongoing turnover at the top and the recent layoffs, staff morale is quite low. But for her to accomplish her primary mandate--- replenishing the charity’s dwindling coffers ---she’ll need to improve the its image and earn back the trust and confidence of donors.