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.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Here are some charities that are clearly a Treat and not a Trick when it comes to financial efficiency, and their names truly fit today's occasion:
Each day, based on a particular holiday (like Halloween) or current event, Charity Navigator’s experts select 4-5 highly-rated charities to highlight. Subscribe now.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Nonprofit Executive Leadership Certificate Program

Rutgers Business School offers A Certificate Program for Senior Executives & Emerging Leaders of Nonprofit Organizations and Foundations

November 3-5; 8:30 am to 5:00 pm

Are you a nonprofit executive in the NJ area? Then consider signing up for this Rutgers Business School certificate program. It is designed to help you advance your career, gain credentials for enhancing your future, and provides an opportunity for you to network with experts, professionals and colleagues. Led by nationally recognized practitioners, the program covers a wide range of topics including:

Emotional Intelligence and Leadership
A personal Model for Life and Career Planning
Ethics and Accountability: Challenges for Nonprofit and Foundation Leaders
Nonprofit Financial Management
Leading through Communication
The Strategic Board
Best Practices in Executive
Relevance and Sustainability

Charity Navigator's own Ken Berger will present "Nonprofit Accountability and Transparency" in the afternoon on the 4th. Learn more and register now.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Qdoba's Qmmunity Project

Qdoba Mexican Grill has teamed up with the 4-star Starlight Children’s Foundation to uncover community stars all over the country. The person with the most votes will earn $5,000 for his/her charity and have a Starlight Fun Center mobile entertainment unit donated in their name to a hospital in their area.

What does this have to do with Charity Navigator? Qdoba is using our list of highly rated charities. So what are you waiting for? Nominate a star now and be confident that when you select a charity it will be one that Charity Navigator has vetted.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

New Top Ten Lists RSS Feed

Last week we added an RSS feed for our Hot Topics section. This week we're happy to announce that we've just started publishing an RSS feed for one of our most popular features...the Top Ten Lists. Access the feed here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Community Foundations Lost Value Last Year

The Council on Foundations recently reported that assets held by community foundations decreased in value by 27% in 2008. This is a significant shift for these grant makers, as the previous five years showed positive returns. This is certainly not surprising in light of the economic downturn; on a positive note, many foundations are already reporting gains of at least 15% in 2009. The findings come from a survey of 200 community foundations with assets of at least $5 million, representing more than half of such grant makers in the country.

To view the ratings of community foundations evaluated by Charity Navigator, click here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Be the Star You Are

Last night, Charity Navigator's president & CEO, Ken Berger, did a radio interview to discuss the new book, Spirit of Service (Ken is a contributor to the book). The radio show, Starstyle-Be the Star You Are! is actually produced by a charity, Be the Star You Are!®, which aims to improve literacy and advance positive media. You can listen to the Cynthia Brian, the show's host, interview Ken online.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

IRS Raising Tax-Exempt Application Fees

The IRS has announced that they will be raising the fees for organizations applying for tax-exempt status. The main fee will be increased to $850 up from $750, the first increase since 2006. The IRS announced that by law they must review and adjust application fees at least once every two years. The review takes into account the average time it takes to review applications. The bright side is that the IRS expects to soon make available Cyber Assistant. Cyber Assistant is a web-based program that will help applicants prepare the application form and so when organization use this program they will only have to pay a fee of $200. For more information about the increase you can go here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Charity Navigator's Leader Contributes to New Book - Spirit of Service

Charity Navigator's own Ken Berger is a contributor to the new book Spirit of Service: Your Daily Stimulus for Making a Difference. The book is a daily guide that explores the many ways we can get involved in service to others. With 365 specific suggestions, and an interactive website featuring opportunities around the nation, there is a calling for everyone.

Arranged in a daily format, each week of Spirit of Service offers seven different ways to serve:
  • MONEY: Donate—find ways your money can make a difference (the section to which Ken lent his expertise)
  • ENERGY: Volunteer—put intention into action
  • FOCUS: Create interest in a cause to bring about change
  • INFLUENCE: Use your personal equity to help others
  • COMPASSION: Open your heart to the needs of others
  • SUPPORT: Get involved—stand up for those without a voice
  • PASSAGE: Join someone on their journey as a guide or mentor
Test out the cool widget below to learn more and become a fan of Spirit of Service on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New Feed From Charity Navigator

The Hot Topic portion of our site includes a series of articles with lists of associated charities. Some of the topics we've covered include global warming, the crisis in Sudan, school choice and Hurricane Katrina. The following Hot Topics are currently featured on our site:
We've received many requests to make this format easy to integrate into other websites --- including from our friends at Network for Good. So, we've created a live feed so you can quickly add our Hot Topics to your site. We hope you'll make use of this and our other feeds.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Idol Giving Back a Third Time

American Idol has announced its Idol Gives Back benefit concert is returning for a third year. A concert to benefit the Children’s Health Fund, Feeding America, Malaria No More, Save the Children, and the United Nations Foundation will air during the top seven results show on April 21st of next year. The first two specials generated over $140 million for related causes.

Many former Idol contestants have become involved in charity work individually. Adam Lambert, the popular runner-up in the 2009 competition recently raised $229,000 for public schools by partnering with Donors Choose. Clay Aiken founded the Bubel/Aiken Foundation (now known as the National Inclusion Project), which bridges the gap that exists between young people with special needs and the world around them. Curious about other charities with celebrity ties? Be sure to visit our star-power hot topic page here.

Friday, October 16, 2009

United Way Ratings Declining

According to figures released by United Way Worldwide, 57 percent of local chapters reported a decrease in contributions in 2008 when compared to the previous year. Only 32 percent of chapters reported an increase in donations, down sharply from the previously reported 55 percent.

Charity Navigator publishes ratings for over almost 140 local chapters, as well as for the United Way of America, the national organization dedicated to leading the United Way movement. Based on the most recent tax returns filed with the organizations on our site, we noticed the following:

 Based on 2008 (99)Based on 2007 (42)
4 Star13.1%35.7%
3 Star43.4%38.1%
2 Star32.3%23.8%
1 Star11.1%2.4%
0 Star0.0%0.0%

Even though our ratings take into account much more than just the amount of contributions, it is very telling to see the drop in the number of United Ways that have achieved our highest 4 star rating. You can review more in-depth information about any of the United Way organizations that are rated on our website by clicking here.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Charity Navigator Participating in Blog Action Day

Along with thousands of other writers around the world, Charity Navigator is participating in Blog Action Day 2009. Today, blogs that typically cover topics ranging from celebrities to stocks will converge on a single subject: climate change. By involving millions of readers, Blog Action Day aims to raise awareness start a global conversation about the growing implications of climate change. You can find out more about this event here.

Charity Navigator is among the many blogs supporting this event. Want to learn more about climate change? Four-star rated charity The Nature Conservancy offers a comprehensive web guide on the issue. We also list dozens of charities on our site that are actively involved with climate change action. You can find a list here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pink Product Fever

This fall, the long-running, mutually beneficial relationship between breast cancer charities and corporate sponsors is in full swing. In an impressive range of cause-related marketing promotions, customers can “Shop for the cure” with a variety of pink products. October, nationally recognized as breast cancer awareness month, is meant to raise awareness and money to fight and cure breast cancer and support patients everywhere. Many top rated charities listed on our site, such as the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and Susan G. Komen for the Cure, will be running events during the month.

New this year, Cybex has introduced the first-ever pink treadmill. The company will donate $0.10 for every mile run during the month of October to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF). Yoplait has teamed up with Susan G. Komen for the Cure in its Save Lids to Save Lives campaign, offering a minimum donation of $500,000. Other notable products include the pink Snuggie ($50,000 will be donated to BCRF in connection with the sales), pink Boeing 757 Delta airplane ($1.5 million has been raised to date), and even pink…romaine hearts? Andy Boy, producer of the lettuce, will donate $75,000 annually to BCRF. While these corporate sponsors are generously sharing their profits, you should always check carefully before buying a pink product as donations to the individual charities can vary.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Food Prices Affecting Farmers

A recent article shows that a decline in food prices is taking a toll on farmers. As prices lower, margins are rising and as a result Farmers are ending up with a smaller share of the final sale. In addition, the recession led to a drop in demand, which then led to an overage of stock on hand. The article also states that "agricultural exports are down 21% so far in 2009." Adding to all the other issues, is the fact that the regular costs farmers incur is 16% higher than it was in 2007. With this new data out, now more than ever is an important time to think about America's Farmers. Consider supporting charities that assist Farmers like Farm Aid. For some more farm related charities go here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Charities on Twitter

I stumbled across a posting on The Huffington Post highlighting the charitable interests of some tweeters including TV news anchor Lily Jang and author Carolyn Rubenstein. Below is a list of some of the charities they support with links to their Charity Navigator ratings and twitter accounts.
Want to find more charities on Twitter? Check out Charity Navigator @CharityNav and our president & CEO, Ken Berger @kenscommentary. Along with donors, many charities follow our Tweets.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Charity Navigator's Monthly E-mail Newsletter

Charity Navigator’s free monthly e-mail newsletter, is delivered on the first Wednesday of each month. It keeps you informed of new trends in charitable giving and lets you know which charities have new ratings. If you aren't a subscriber, sign up now.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Baseball Playoffs - Round One

October is here and that means that Major League Baseball begins their playoffs. We thought it would be fun to see how cities where the matched up teams are from compare in terms of the charities located in those cities. We will use the data that was compiled during our last Metro Market Study. Three teams will be in action today and the other series begins Thursday.
American League (ALDS):
First, we have the Boston Red Sox going up against he Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Boston had less wins during the season but they are home to the higher rated charities. Charities in Boston have an overall median Charity Navigator (CN) score of 55.53 while those in Los Angeles have a median score of 53.23.
The other series in the American League will be the New York Yankees vs. the Minnesota Twins. Minnesota won an exciting tie-break game last night to get into the playoffs but it wins them a date today with the best team in the league. However, in the charity world although New York has the edge the numbers are pretty close. Charities in New York had an overall CN Score of 54.87 and those in Minneapolis/St. Paul had a score of 54.27. It will be interesting if the games end up being this close.
National League (NLDS):
Defending World Series Champions, the Philadelphia Phillies, will begin their repeat quest against the Colorado Rockies. The teams are only separated by one win in the standings and are separated by less than one point when it comes to CN charity score. Charities in Colorado Springs, CO have a median CN score of 54.16 and charities in Philadelphia come in at 53.30.
The other series in the National League will have the St. Louis Cardinals vs. the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers were the better team in the regular season but when it comes to charities, St. Louis takes the matchup. Charities in St. Louis had a median CN score of 53.53, while the Los Angeles charities score was 53.23.

For more city by city comparisons, please see our Metro Market Study here. Enjoy the baseball playoffs!

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Did you know one out of every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime? Or that only one-quarter of all physical assaults are reported to the police? In 2007, there were 248,300 reported sexual attacks in the United States. Recently, singer Rhianna was the victim of an assault by then-boyfriend Chris Brown. During October, which is recognized nationally as domestic violence awareness month, communities across the country will be participating in events and campaigns to shed light on the issue of relationship violence. Many non-profit organizations dedicated to ending domestic violence provide services to victims as well as education and training for their communities. Some top-rated charities working nationally include Equality Now, Family Violence Prevention Fund, and the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. You can watch a video that includes more charities here. You can also learn about ways to stop domestic violence, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Online Chat About Charity Executive Compensation with The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Earlier today, Ken Berger (Charity Navigator's president & CEO), David Samuels (partner at Duval & Stachenfeld LLP and former Deputy Chief of the NY Attorney General's Charities Bureau) and Noelle Barton (Manager of Special Projects at The Chronicle of Philanthropy) participated in an online discussion about executive pay at nonprofits. Among other issues, the conversation touched on executive perks, deferred compensation, the appropriateness of revenue sharing programs, bonuses, compensation committees and the difference between what is technically legal and what adheres to best practice when it comes to charity CEO pay.

Highlights from the conversation include:

  • I can't speak for the regulators, but in general, if someone is interested in your organization's operations, I would think it is generally in your best interest to explain what you can about executive pay packages. If there's a reason backing up a lump sum payment, why not include it in your public filing. It certainly helps out the observers and folks that track this data ... ~Noelle Barton
  • We heartily agree with Noelle. Groups like ours and others are scrutinizing the 990 information on behalf of the public. So regardless of the regulatory scrutiny and in the general interest of transparency and accountability, the report should be as thorough and detailed as possible. ~Ken Berger
  • I think we are going to see a continuing reluctance of many nonprofits to raise compensation going forward as much as in the past. Many are having financial difficulties... limiting their ability to raise pay. And of course charities are sensitive to the public perception that, during difficult times, it is prudent to hold the line on compensation. ~David Samuels
You can read the full transcript on the Chronicle's site.

Michael Jackson’s Estate Sues Heal the World Foundation

We reported earlier this summer about the King of Pop’s remarkable contribution to the health and well being of children and the needy through a lifetime of charity work. In 1992, Jackson founded The Heal the World Foundation, which lost its tax-exempt status in 2002, to help the world’s most vulnerable populations. A legal battle has now arisen between Jackson’s estate and a charity incorporated in 2008 under the same name, The Heal the World Foundation.

CBS first broke the news that the new charity doing business as The Heal the World Foundation had no relationship to Michael Jackson, yet it featured prominent references to Jackson and his involvement with the original organization. Donors wishing to support Jackson’s philanthropic work after his sudden death in June would likely have been misled by the suggested ties. Now, attorneys for the Jackson estate have filed a suit against two California charities, The Heal the World Foundation and United Fleet, an affiliated corporation. The suit alleges that the charities are wrongly using Jackson’s name and catchphrases to solicit donations by appearing to be related to the King of Pop. According to Reuters, the two entities have registered six Jackson-related trademarks, and have applications pending on 41 additional ones. The suit claims trademark infringement and unfair competition among other violations.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Author Uses Charity Navigator to Select Charities to Promote Among Readers

Charity Navigator proves to be instrumental tool for finding charities that meet exact criteria

Jacquelyn Wheeler, volunteerism advocate and author of The Soterians series for young adults, has selected eleven charities to promote on her site that fit into five categories: Water, Food, Health Care, Safe Shelter, and Education. Her goal was to find charities that were highly efficient, international in scope, and provided opportunities to donate both time and money.

"It was a daunting task," said Wheeler. "I had a few favorite charities that I already supported, but I needed a way to make sure they met my very specific criteria before I chose to promote them. At first, I had no idea how to go about finding this information other than looking at each charity's web site one by one."

Then, she found Charity Navigator.

"I was thrilled," she said. "I searched for the charities in each of the categories I needed, filtered by those that had the highest rating, and then read the analysis on Charity Navigator to find the right organizations. What would have taken me several days of work only took a couple of hours."

“This is another example of how
Charity Navigator provides donors with the opportunity to better understand the organizations they are considering supporting,” said Ken Berger, president & CEO of Charity Navigator.

Wheeler donates twenty percent of her royalties to the charities she selected and helps promote them through her web site (www.soterians.com) and her followers on Facebook and Twitter. With the recent launch of her web site and release of the first book in the series, Rising Shadow, Wheeler hopes to raise awareness of the importance of volunteering and make it easy to find a charity that strikes her readers' interest.

"Volunteerism is critically important to our society," she said. "I'm very happy there are tools like Charity Navigator to make it easy to find an organization that you can feel good about supporting."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Painting the Town Pink

It must be October because along with Christmas and Halloween decorations, every store I enter also is adorned with pink colored products. If you plan to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness month by going on a shopping spree, then we hope you'll watch our video on this topic and review ratings of several breast cancer charities.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

When It Rains It Pours

Earlier this week, an earthquake and tsunami caused destruction and took the lives of more than 100 people in American Samoa, Western Samoa and Tonga. Since then, additional earthquakes in Indonesia have left thousands dead, injured and homeless. You can learn more about this disaster and how nonprofits are responding on Relief Web and on CNN's Impact Your World (Charity Navigator's partner).

As we said in our post yesterday about the Samoa tsunami, we hope those wishing to support the Indonesia earthquake relief efforts will review our Tips For Giving In Times Of Crisis. To date, the following charities are either providing direct assistance or are fundraising for the relief efforts:

October Update

On October 1st, we updated the evaluations of over 550 charities, including those for ALSAC - St. Jude Children's Research Hospital (3 stars), Feed the Children (4 stars), American Cancer Society (3 stars), Reading is Fundamental (2 stars), and United Spinal Association (0 stars).

We also added 18 new charities to our site. These include AdoptaPlatoon (1 star), Redwings Horse Sanctuary (1 star), WorldTeach (4 stars), The ARK (3 stars) and Friends of Women's World Banking (2 stars).

Please also check out the new Top 10 Lists added this month and our Hot Topics section which includes information on Breast Cancer Awareness (October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month).

If you have not done so already, be sure to sign up for our free, monthly, email newsletters so that you can automatically be notified about our updates.