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.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Charities Respond to Swine Flu Outbreak

As depicted in the map below, the number of confirmed cases of swine flu and related deaths continues to grow. Here’s how some in the philanthropic community are responding.

View H1N1 Swine Flu in a larger map

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Hunger And Hope

Today, bloggers have been asked to unite in an effort to raise awareness about hunger and offer hope in finding a solution.

Here are the facts:
  • In 2007, 3.4% of all U.S. households (3.9 million households) accessed emergency food from a food pantry one or more times. (source Feeding America)
  • More than 840 million people in the world are malnourished — 799 million of them live in the developing world. (source CARE)
  • One third of the world's hungry people are South Asian. One quarter are from sub-Saharan Africa. The next largest populations are in East and Southeast Asia and in Latin America. (source The Hunger Project)
If these sobering facts inspire you to give, then visit Charity Navigator to view reports on hundreds of charities dealing with the issue of hunger. You can also view a video that we created for last year's Hunger Awareness Month.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Newly Designed Form 990

For the 2008 tax year, charities with gross receipts >$1 million and assets >$2.5 million are required to use the newly designed Form 990. This is the first major redesign since the Form 990 was introduced in 1941.

Why the redesign? The IRS wanted to accomplish three, somewhat competing, goals:
  1. Increase transparency
  2. Increase accountability
  3. Ease the reporting burden on charities.
The new 990, which includes more questions about governance and compensation practices, consists of an 11 page core form and 16 schedules. Charities are not required to complete all of the schedules, but are directed to fill out certain schedules based on their responses to trigger questions. The IRS offers a mini online course that introduces the newly designed Form 990 and provides guidance to charities in how to complete the new document.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Millions Not Going to the Dogs

Despite hotel operator Leona Helmsley's wishes that the $136 million left in the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust be distributed to charities that care for dogs after her death, much of those funds will go to non-dog-related charities. The trustees of Helmsley's estate were granted the authority to disburse the funds at their own discretion by a judge last February. They have decided to allocate just $1 million to charities with dog-related causes. This $1 million is being divided among various animal-rights organizations including the ASPCA.

Many animal-rights groups are disappointed that Helmsley's wishes as set forth in her will are being largely ignored. In addition, the amount that has been set aside for Helmsley's intended cause could do more good if concentrated on a few outstanding charities than it could being scattered among organizations with the same cause. For more tips on intelligent giving, visit our FAQ for Donors.

Friday, April 24, 2009

How Do 4-Star Charities Share Their Great Ratings?

4-star charities promote their excellent ratings in many different ways. Some common examples are:
  • Issuing a press releases to generate media coverage
  • Including it in a boilerplate
  • Highlighting the achievement in online and offline newsletters
  • Featuring it on their websites in an area where donations are accepted
  • Referencing it in grant proposals and annual reports
  • Displaying the 4-star logo in appeal letters, envelopes, banners and so on
Goodwill Southern California came up with another interesting way to share their good news (seen below). They created a physical card to insert in appeal letters and other mailings.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Workplace Giving Predicted to Decline

We have mentioned the impact the economic crisis is having on charitable donations. However, what many people may not have taken into consideration is the effect that this will have on those organizations that rely on workplace giving campaigns for the majority of their donations. How can people possibly give via workplace campaigns if they are unemployed and thus not getting any paychecks to deduct from? While United Way of America has already predicted a 4%-6% decline in giving levels for 2009, many other organizations are bound to be impacted as well.

The national unemployment rate keeps rising (the 8.5% rate of March 2009 is 3.4% higher than the rate one year ago.), which makes it even more important for those participating in workplace giving campaigns, to make sure that donations are ending up with the right organizations. Charity Navigator’s Guide To Giving In The Workplace is a good resource to start, and, as always, our advanced search will let you easily search for organizations based on their mission, location, size and/or overall rating.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day!

Bloggers around the net are uniting to celebrate Earth Day today, April 22, 2009. Earth Day is celebrated annually around the world to raise awareness about environmental issues. It is organized by the Earth Day Network – a four star rated charity. This year’s events will focus on renewable energy, sustainable consumption, and creation of a green economy. The theme is “The Green Generation Campaign,” which will be carried over for next year’s celebration, marking the 40th anniversary of the event. You can find more details about the event here. You can also search for an event in your area here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Facebook For Good

To celebrate their site reaching 200 million users, Facebook has created a charity page called Facebook For Good. Facebook has partnered with 16 charities that have created virtual gifts. Members can buy the gifts for one another’s profiles, with proceeds going to charity. When you purchase one of these gifts, 90-95% of the cost will go to that organization to support its efforts. The page is also features space for users to share stories about how Facebook has helped them give back.

Another way Facebook users give back is through the Causes application. Causes lets you start and join the causes you care about. Donations to causes can benefit over a million registered 501(c)(3) nonprofits and major presidential campaigns. Don’t forget to check out the Charity Navigator Cause Page and join the cause.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cool Gift for a Cool Mom

Mother's day (May 10th) isn't all that far off and Cool Mom Picks recommends the Good Card for the do-gooding mom.

Why is a donation to her favorite charity the perfect gift? Because it’s the thought that counts for Mom.

When you purchase a Good Card, you get to personalize the card and mom gets to fund her favorite charity. Together you make a difference and feel good.

If you order now, then you still have enough time to get one of these cool looking plastic cards. Email delivery is perfect for those who wait until the last minute.

Here Mom.
Happy Mother's Day!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Politicians' Philanthropic Proclivities

Yesterday, Ken Berger was on FOX Business News discussing the charitable giving habits of elected officials. Here's what he said:

Given the nature of TV, we're often unable to share all of the research we have on a given topic. So, we thought we'd share some more of it here.
For more information about the charitable giving habits of our elected officials, you can visit our prior posts here, here, here and here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

7 Years of Navigating Charities

Since launching our donor service on April 15, 2002, we've helped millions of donors make responsible and informed charitable decisions. During that time we've grown from 1,100 ratings to more than 5,400, expanded our member benefits, improved our search tools and even added more data to our charity evaluations.

Our President & CEO, Ken Berger, marks this special occasion with an article that takes a look at the past and the future of Charity Navigator and the nonprofit sector.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Charity Navigator's 7 Year Anniversary - Looking Inward

As noted last week, on the anniversary of the launching of our web site (April 15, 2002) it has been a tradition for us to either reflect back on the past year or forward on the year(s) to come. This year, we do both. Last week we reflected outward on the charitable sector as a whole, this week we reflect inward to Charity Navigator itself.

Visit Ken's blog, for the full post, links and other content.

One-Quarter of Americans Donating Time, On Average

Roughly a quarter of Americans volunteered at least once between September of 2007 and 2008. According the a report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 23% of men and 29% of women donated an average of 52 hours during that year – figures that remained virtually unchanged from the previous year.

Persons aged 35 to 44 volunteered at the highest rates, and those in their early twenties were least likely to according to the report. While younger Americans are currently volunteering at low rates, proposals by the Obama administration may boost service time in the future. A plan released by the President focuses on expanding programs like AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and engaging retired Americans. Those still in school will also see incentives including a $4,000 education credit for college students who donate 100 hours of community service per year. Are you ready to help?

Monday, April 13, 2009

National Library Week

Today marks the start of National Library Week. It is a great time to consider supporting your local library. Even though we are in the age of the internet, libraries are still an important resource. Libraries contain many items that can not be transferred to the web and also provide many different programs to the community. Throughout the week we will be listing highly rated libraries and library foundations. This is today's list:
The Free Library of Philadelphia
Greenwich Library
Friends of the San Francisco Public Library
The Library Foundation
Chicago Public Library Foundation

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

Friday, April 10, 2009

Charity Navigator in the News

Here are a few articles that cited Charity Navigator during the past week. For an expanded list of our news coverage, please visit the press room on our site.
  • The Wall Street Journal wrote about the growing trend of charities placing a ‘gift tax’ on donations to cover the costs incurred to obtain that gift. Our President & CEO, Ken Berger, is quoted in the article.

Finally, we’ve been nominated for the Best Charity Blog. Please vote for us.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Happy Birthday Charity Navigator Blog!

Today is the one year anniversary of our first posting on this blog.

National Donate Life Month

In this month's video, Program Analyst Farhana Arastu points out some top-rated charities that work with transplant donors and recipients. And New Jersey Organ & Tissue Sharing Network Transplant Coordinator, Kristi Hnyda, talks about some of the common misconceptions about organ donation and how you can sign up to donate your organs.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Take Advantage of What Museums Have to Offer

Everyone’s searching for a bargain these days. If you’re looking for affordable entertainment, consider visiting one of the many museum exhibits across the country, highlighted in this USA Today article. With special shows covering a wide range of interests, you’re sure to find something that appeals to you.

As we’ve mentioned before, arts charities are feeling the impact of the economy as much as (possibly more than) other organizations, and ticket sales help to keep museums afloat in tough times. So get out and take advantage of one of these wonderful cultural opportunities while helping out a local cultural institution. If you’re interested in supporting the arts with a donation, click here for a list of highly rated museums evaluated on our site.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Bloggers Unite: World Health Day

Bloggers Unite has teamed up with the World Health Organization to promote World Health Day. World Health Day 2009 focuses on the safety of health facilities and the readiness of health workers who treat those affected by emergencies. World Health Organization has celebrated World Health day on the 7th of April, since 1950 to create awareness of a specific health theme to highlight a priority area of concern. The motto of this year’s World Health Day is “Save lives. Make hospitals safe in emergencies”.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Earthquake in Italy - Dozens Dead, Thousands Hurt, Even More Homeless

Today, a powerful earthquake struck the city of L'Aquila in central Italy, northeast of Rome. The 4-star charity, Save the Children, is sending a team of experts to provide help to the children affected by the earthquake.

We will update this post as we become aware of other charities providing assistance.
Picture: REUTERS

Tuesday's Update: Operation Blessing is sending its director of international disaster relief, David Darg, who led the organization's earthquake relief efforts in China, to assist with the relief efforts in Italy.

Charity Navigator's Predictions for the Year(s) to Come

On his blog, Ken's Commentary, Charity Navigator's President and CEO makes 10 predictions for the nonprofit sector for the years to come.

AIG Affecting Charitable Sector

AIG has once again been denied access to shares of their company now in the possession of the non-profit Starr Foundation. The Starr Foundation is an organization that is largely financed by AIG stock and run by AIG current and former executives. The Starr Foundation lost almost 57% of its assets due to the decline in the stock price of AIG. The stock price drop of AIG has also affected other foundations holding AIG stock, as well as the organizations these foundations fund. Seems AIG is now having a ripple affect in the charitable sector.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Charity Criticizes Madonna’s Adoption Plans

Madonna is back in Malawi with plans to adopt a four-year-old girl, but an international human rights organization has criticized her actions in the media. Save the Children spokesman Dominic Nutt told CNN, “The best place for a child is in his or her family in their home community.” He also explained that children should only be removed from their village when all other options – such as living with an extended family member – have been exhausted. Save the Children is a top-rated organization focuses on children’s health and wellness in the United States and around the world.

According to the latest reports, a Malawian judge has denied Madonna's adoption application. Under Malawian law, prospective parents must live in the country 18 to 24 months before an adoption can be finalized, a requirement not met by the pop star. No word yet on any appeal from Madonna.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

New Features

Taking advantage of Google's free search API, we've begun to display search results for news, videos, and blogs about the charities we evaluate. We're rolling it out selectively to ensure that the results are relevant but here are examples of the new "News" tab in action: Feeding America and AmeriCares.

In addition to the newsfeed, we just launched a feature called "My Requests" for registered users. For years we've accepted suggestions for charities to evaluate but didn't have a mechanism to effectively communicate the status of those requests back to the user. Now, registered users see a link to "My Requests" on the "My Charities" page. Clicking that link will display a list of all the requests submitted by that user since we started accepting suggestions on the site.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Update

All kidding aside, while Americans enjoy the pranks and jokes that come with April Fool's Day, we at Charity Navigator remain serious about the financial performance of charities. So today we publish 449 updated charity ratings, 18 new charity evaluations, and more new top 10 lists for your use. Additionally, our President & CEO Ken Berger marks the seventh anniversary of the launch of Charity Navigator in his article, The Past and the Future.