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.

Monday, November 30, 2009

(Guest Blog) Two Parrot takes on River Blindness Film Project in Cameroon, West Africa

Deep in the jungles of western Cameroon the Jimmy Carter Center treats one of the world's most insidious diseases. Two Parrot Production brothers John and Bill Kizorek made their way over hours of single-lane rutted roads, along with members of the Lions Club of Cameroon. They created a short documentary film (now on YouTube) on how the fly breeds, how it bites humans and lays eggs in their bodies. The bites release microfilaria into the bloodstream, some of which make their way to the eyes and cause blindness. Other side-effects are skin ulcers, intense itching, and nodules under the skin.
John Kizorek taping education program in remote Cameroon village

The film shows how an international drug donation program by Merck, using the drug Mectizan, is helping cure this disease. Along the way the Two Parrot videographers taped the flies biting humans and also showed what the Lions Club members are doing to educate the community to eradicate this disease from the country.

Bill Kizorek coming up from fly-infested river bank
Small boy examined for symptoms of river blindness.

According to Bill Kizorek, "this was a little on the scary side. At one point I asked where I could find some of these flies to film, and the guy standing next to me pulled up his pant leg and had SIX of the flies sucking blood from his calf! I was grateful to be wearing ExOfficio pants with Insect Shield to deter similar gnawing on my own skin." -by Bill Kizorek, senior partner,Two Parrot Productions

Why did we invite Bill Kizorek to do another blog entry for Charity Navigator? Because we helped match up Two Parrot with several of the charities who eventually benefited from their grants and many of our blog readers enjoyed their first guest posting.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Black Friday

Instead of standing in line at the mall trying to catch a deal, put your feet up and purchase a Good Card from the comfort of your home. A Good Card is a gift card for charity offered by Charity Navigator through a partnership with Network for Good. You pick the amount to put on the card and the recipient selects a charity (or charities) to receive the donation.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

City Harvest
Island Harvest
Harvest Hope Food Bank
Ozarks Food Harvest
Forgotten Harvest
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 25, 2009

If You Must Shop On Black Friday

If you plan to take advantage of Black Friday's sales, then charge away with your Charity Navigator Capital One Visa card. This way 1% of your purchases will be donated to Charity Navigator.

Don't have a Charity Navigator Capital One Visa card? Get one now!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What We're Thankful For

As Thanksgiving approaches, we at Charity Navigator are thankful for:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Oreos and Charity – Teaching Kids To Be Philanthropists

What could be more daunting than trying to teach the concept of philanthropy to a bunch of 5 year olds? Having to go after the parents that work at Kraft and who had the kids make their own Oreo cookies! This was the conundrum I was up against a few weeks back when my child’s kindergarten teacher extended an invitation for all the parents to come in and talk about our careers. Considering what I was up against, it went great.

First, taking a cue from some lesson plans I found online, I introduced the word philanthropy. We talked about how it means to share your time, talent and treasures for the common good. All the kids got a chance to answer the question “I’m going to be a philanthropist because I’m going to …” They did a great job and had some thoughtful answers.

Next, I read them the book Strega Nona’s Harvest. One of the characters builds a secret garden and anonymously donates the vegetables he grows to Strega Nona. She doesn’t know what to do with all the extra food. When she finds out that everyone else in town had a poor crop yield, she decides to have a feast and feed all her neighbors. The kids like the story.

After that, we made harvest goodie bags. We filled them with candy, stickers, notepads, crayons and small toys. I told the kids that the bags were for kids in our community that didn’t have enough food, like the people in the story. And that when these kids and their families go to the local food bank this Thanksgiving, that they’d get our goodie bags as an extra treat. We decided that we’d donate our creations to the 4-star charity, Homeless Solutions.

Before I left, I gave the teacher some handouts to stick in each kid’s backpack. I found the activity pages on a site called, Learning to Give. I especially like the “share, save, spend” inspired piggy bank that the kids can make themselves. If I get invited back, then this would be a fun project to do with the kids.

But enough about my experience, how about you? How have you taught young people about giving back?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Making The Case For Corporate Giving

Ken Berger, Charity Navigator's president & CEO, makes the case in NJBIZ for corporate philanthropy. He points out that in 2008 corporations gave $14.5 billion to charity and that New Jersey is home to some big time corporate givers. Just last year, NJ based Merck gave $821 million; Johnson & Johnson, $497 million; Prudential, $31 million; and Public Service Enterprise Group, $7.5 million. Ken ends his discussion with some advice on how firms can identify great charities to partner with.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

scroogenomics - Wharton Professor Makes the Case for Charitable Giving During the Holidays

In his new book, scroogenomics, Wharton professor Joel Waldfogel advocates that we all donate to charity in someone's name, rather than give another dreaded fruit cake this holiday season. Both in the book, and in a recent interview where he argues that $13 billion is wasted on useless presents, he recommends Charity Navigator as a source of information about charities. And in the book, he even suggests the Good Card as a good solution to holiday gift giving.

Watch the video below to learn more about the professor's research.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Conference Call on International Capacity Building and Effectiveness

Ken Berger, president and CEO of Charity Navigator, along with Sam Worthington, president and CEO of InterAction, will discuss the best ways to assess the effectiveness of internationally-focused organizations via a conference call hosted by the Independent Sector. The title of the discussion is "Assessing Internationally-Focused Nonprofits -- Striking the Right Balance of Short-Term Efficiency and Long-Term Capacity" and it will take place on Tuesday, December 1, 2009, 2:30 - 3:30 p.m.

For more details and to register, click here.

Charity Leaders Discuss Fundraising in the Down Economy

This year's holiday giving guide includes a roundtable discussion with the leaders of 10 nonprofits. The participants were selected from our Advisory Panel and from the higher rated charities in our database. We've published the first part of that discussion which focuses on how these organizations are fairing in the recession.

Here are some quotes from Part 1:

We continue to be anxious about Foundation giving and the lack of multi-year commitments that new initiatives require. On individual giving, we remain optimistic.~Jeremy Kohomban, Ph.D., President and CEO, The Children’s Village

I believe that if an organization has a good mission and a good story to tell, then it will weather the storm. It takes aggressive planning and a dedicated staff now to position the organization for the future so it’s ready when the economy does rebound. ~Susan Paresky, Senior Vice President, Development, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute & The Jimmy Fund

We agree that it will take a couple of years to see people giving again as in the past. In fact, we believe there is a “new reality”, meaning that it won’t ever be as it once was. That due to actual losses and setbacks, or due to paralysis by fear, that the donor public will not be giving as they once did. Smaller gifts, designated purposes, and higher scrutiny will be the new rule.~Curtis Hail, President, e3 Partners Ministry

The second part of the conversation, which discuss the characteristics of a high performing charity, will be accessible on our site in December.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Creative Ways To Donate This Holiday Season

Users of Charity Navigator, and just about anyone opening their mailbox around now, know that requests for charitable donations soar at the end of the year. Why? There are three main reasons.

  1. The religious nature of the holidays inspire people to help those who are less fortunate.
  2. Taxpayers need to make their donations by December 31 to qualify for a tax deduction in this calendar year.
  3. As the year comes to a close, people look at their personal budgets and determine how much money they have for their charitable interests.
Knowing this, charities step up their appeals for your support towards the end of the year. To help you make smart choices about where to invest your philanthropic dollars, we've published a holiday giving guide that is full of tips and information.

That said, we are fearful that giving will continue to be down this holiday season as it was last year. The recession has hindered many people's ability to support their favorite charities resulting in the biggest drop in charitable giving in the last fifty years. Even if the economy improves, it will likely take many months for charitable giving to rebound.

Thankfully, Shelly Banjo over at the Wall Street Journal has some smart ideas for how you can still afford to give in this down economy.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Car Donations & Your Taxes

Recent reports indicate that the IRS isn't doing enough to ensure that donors are properly documenting their deductions for car donations or to make sure that the charities are following the new laws. While that may be true, we still urge donors to be careful when claiming these deductions. For more information, check out our Guide To Donating Your Car.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bob Dylan Releases Holiday Record to Benefit Charity

Christmas in the Heart, released earlier in October, is Bob Dylan’s first full-length holiday album. While some Dylan fans are skeptical of the singer’s transition to the Christmas music genre, the album has been met with positive reviews. Dylan shows his holiday spirit not only through the traditional tunes, but through his generous spirit – the royalties from sales of the album are going straight to charity. All proceeds will benefit four-star rated Feeding America, UK-based Crisis, and the UN World Food Programme. Interested in what causes other musicians are supporting? Check out or hot topic page of Celebrity-Charity associations.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Do Donors Care About A Charity's Impact?

As Ken Berger recently discussed in his blog entry, Why Should Donors Care About Outcomes and Impact?, we've had some surprising feedback regarding our intention to rate each charity's outcomes. Many experts in the field actually question whether donors even care about a charity's outcomes. So, when the folks over at Zoomerang offered us the chance to use their online survey software, we thought let's take this question to the donors.

That's right, we want to hear from you. Is it important to you as a donor to know that a charity has meaningful results? Let us know now by completing our 3 question survey.

Then check out how other donors are responding.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day

Today, is a day that Americans pause to honor all our military veterans. This may inspire you to make a donation to one of these 4-star charities:

Special Operations Warrior Foundation
Fisher House Foundation
National Military Family Association
Homes for Our Troops

This Veterans Day you are probably also thinking about the recent outburst of violence at Ft. Hood. If so, then you may want to make a gift to the 4-star charity Operation Homefront which has established a fund to help the families impacted by the tragedy at Ft. Hood.

For more ratings for charities that Support Our Troops, please visit the Hot Topics portion of our site.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Drew Carey’s Twitter Challenge Raises Money for Charity

This holiday season, Twitter fans can help guarantee a $1 million donation for the LiveStrong Foundation from actor Drew Carey. What’s the catch? Drew Carey must reach 1,000,000 followers on his own Twitter account (@drewfromtv) by midnight on December 31st. This quirky fundraising scheme began with another Drew – cancer survivor Drew Olanoff - who happens to be the owner of an enviable twitter name, @drew. Drew Olanoff decided to auction this rare twitter user name and donate the profits. Drew Carey, host of “The Price is Right,” got wind of the good-willed auction and bid on the name. He eventually raised his donation challenge to a $1 million promise if he reaches the same number of followers on his own account. The donation will be prorated, so for every new follower, $1.00 will be donated to the LiveStrong Foundation, up to $1 million. Learn more about the story at CNN, or check on @drewfromTV’s progress here.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Rainn Wilson of “The Office” visits Haiti

Rainn Wilson, better known as quirky Dwight on NBC’s The Office recently travelled to Haiti to learn about the countries staggering poverty rates and troubled education systems. Wilson went with his wife and spent six days with two different charities, the Mona Foundation and Planting Peace according to a USA today article. The article includes blog entries that Wilson wrote while there, which he calls his “webary.” We’ve featured celebrities and their efforts to give back on this blog before. Do you share Rainn Wilson’s interest in international development and human services? Consider a donation to one of our top rated international charities. You can also find a list of four-star charities working in Haiti here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Catch Charity Navigator's Videos on Starfish Television

Two of Charity Navigator's videos have made the jump from YouTube to your TV set. You'll be able to catch our videos on Starfish Television Network on the following dates:
  • Saturday, November 07, 2009 - 11:48 AM EST
  • Saturday, November 07, 2009 - 5:23 PM EST
  • Sunday, November 15, 2009 - 1:20 AM EST
  • Monday, November 16, 2009 - 9:11 AM EST
  • Saturday, November 21, 2009 - 2:18 AM EST
There are 4 ways to view Starfish Television Network:
  1. Dish Network 1000 platform, channels 296 & 9408
  2. Coaxial Cable TV (Edinboro PA) channel 8
  3. Visit www.StarfishTV.org, click “Watch Live”
  4. Visit www.ZapMyTV.com
And you can find out when we'll be on TV again by visiting our page on the Starfish TV's website.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Appeal(ing) Rewards!

Charity Navigator's Fall donor drive is in full swing. We've teamed up with the
New Jersey Nets to say a resounding thanks to one lucky donor. Everyone who donates $50 or more between now and December 10 will automatically be entered to win 4 tickets (valued at $700!) to a New Jersey Nets game (click here for details). Tough times demand smarter giving--that's why Charity Navigator is more important than ever and why we're asking for your support. Thank You!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Charity Navigator Holiday Giving Tips

For those of you planning end-of-year charitable giving, we offer our annual Charity Navigator Holiday Giving Guide. Reading this online guide before you give will ensure that your holiday donations best reach a good cause.

Explore the Giving Guide:

Monday, November 2, 2009

Volunteer Center of Bergen County, NJ - Executive Director's Roundtable

Next week, Charity Navigator's president & CEO, Ken Berger, will lead a roundtable discussion at The Volunteer Center of Bergen County. Executive Directors in Northern NJ are invited to spend the morning with him and other nonprofit leaders to develop strategies that maintain organizational integrity in the face of prolonged challenges to fiscal stability.

Discussion topics may include:
  • educating our Boards about realistic fundraising expectations in this economic climate

  • developing budget contingencies for the long haul

  • using the combined, proactive power of nonprofits to leverage joint purchasing

  • figuring out how to combine resources for "back office" operations

  • other topics of your choice

Date/Time: Thursday, November 12, 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM
Course Leader: Ken Berger, Charity Navigator
Registration Fee: Free
Level: Intermediate, Advanced
For more information contact The Volunteer Center of Bergen County's Non-Profit Training and Resource Center: 64 Passaic Street, Hackensack, NJ 07601 201-489-9454, training@bergenvolunteers.org, www.bergenvolunteers.org.

November Update

We know that many of you are starting to think about your end-of-year charitable giving plans. With that in mind, we've just published 356 updated ratings, several top 10 lists, and articles.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Charitable Giving, Wealth, and Happiness

A new book reveals that those who are wealthy and donate 10% or more of their income build a higher net worth and are happier than other wealthy people. The book was written by Thomas J. Stanley based on a survey of over 900 millionaires. A recent article about the book, explains that Mr. Stanley says the most generous wealthy donors "are the least enamored with status. They have a small house and a big heart." It seems that the sample of the most wealthy who give, get more out of acquiring wealth and donating a good portion of that wealth rather than just spending their money on luxury items. So it seems donating and helping other does make one feel good!