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, December 31, 2009

DONATE NOW To Reduce Your 2009 Tax Bill

If you were planning on making charitable donation to reduce your 2009 tax bill, then you need to do so by the end of the day!

Don't worry, you still have time to go to Charity Navigator’s site and give online by clicking on the ‘Donate Now’ button located on your favorite charity’s ratings page. An added benefit of giving through our site is that you’ll be able to access your 2009 giving history when you are ready to complete your tax return.

And if you are at all unclear about the tax implications of your charitable efforts, then we encourage you to check out our guides on this topic.

Finally, if our evaluations have helped guide your charitable decisions this year, we hope you’ll consider a donation to Charity Navigator. We are a 501 (c)(3) public charity and donations to us are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

When Does the Check Have to Be in the Mail?

If you're making your year-end charitable contributions by check, make sure you get them in the mail on or before December 31st. The IRS expects that donations made in this manner are postmarked on or before the last day of the year and deposited very shortly thereafter. Year after year, it never fails that charities receive a significant number of well-intentioned donors' checks dated in December yet postmarked in January and even February. If you want your donation to count for the current tax year, make a New Year's Eve trip to the post office--it's well worth it!

Monday, December 28, 2009

There Is Still Time To Pick A Charity

Are you still looking for a charity to support this year? No problem, check out our list of the highest and lowest rated charites in each of our 34 causes. And if nothing catches your interest there, then use our advanced search tool to look for more charities.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

A Great Example of Corporate Social Responsibility

IntegraScan, a new corporate sponsor of Charity Navigator, is giving back to the community in a big way through its Safe Kids program. The company noticed that the downturn in the economy had led to a pronounced decrease in the number of organizations serving children and youth that were requesting the necessary and vital background checks of their employees and volunteers. This year, IntegraScan made a commitment to provide $500,000 of monthly free background checks to organizations serving children and youth. That adds up to $6 million annually. Eligible organizations do not have to have 501 (c)(3) status--they simply have to demonstrate that they provide programs and services to this population. Click here to learn more. And thanks, IntegraScan, for your commitment to corporate responsibility!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month

Here's a video we created last year about National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month:

Visit our site for a list of related charities.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Giving Facts

Did you know?
  • You must keep a bank record or written communication from a charity including the charity's name, along with the date and amount of your contribution, in order to deduct a cash contribution.
  • A total of 19 billion cards, letters, and packages are delivered between Thanksgiving and Christmas each year.
  • For just $1, food banks can provide nine pounds of food and grocery products to Americans facing hunger.
  • Donations to charitable causes in the United States reached an estimated $307 billion in 2008 --- an impressive figure, yet down 5.7% over the prior year.
Visit our site for more holiday inspired factoids.

Friday, December 18, 2009

More Isn't Always Better

Followers of Charity Navigator know that we have often noted how easy it is to create a new nonprofit. We've long lamented the fact that the size of the nonprofit sector has ballooned in recent years, yet the amount of money flowing into the sector hasn't kept pace. A recent article in the New York Times by Stephanie Strom details just how dramatic the growth has been and backs up our claim that the IRS hands out nonprofit status like people giving candy to babies.

Here are some highlights from the article:
  • New charities are created every 10-15 minutes.
  • Last year, the IRS approved 99% of applications for charity status.
  • There are 1.1 million charities in America.
  • In the past decade, the number of charities has grown 60%.
The above situation prompted, Rob Reich, associate professor of political science at Stanford, to say the following about the IRS review process, “it just seems utterly implausible that anyone can be doing due diligence in any way that constitutes a serious review of the applicant, let alone keeping an eye on them after they are approved.” And Dean Zerbe, who was previously tax counsel to the Senate Finance Committee , said he believes that we need to find a way to encourage those who wish to create new charities to take steps to ensure that their 'new' group isn't going to offer duplicative services.

The moral of this tale for donors is that just because a group is a bona fide nonprofit doesn't mean that it is effective, ethical or efficient. Be sure to do your homework and check out a charity before you give.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pay At The Top Comes Under Scrutiny

This week, President Obama told bank executives that the government will not be happy to see large executive bonuses. Such payouts just don't sit well with so many Americans out of work. Not surprising, the public's concern over pay at the top doesn't end with the for-profit sector. Americans want to know that the charities seeking their support this holiday season, and beyond, are not offering excessive salaries to their CEOs.

Tampa area donors will therefore be thankful to learn of WFLA-TV Mark Douglas' in-depth investigation into the compensation practices at hundreds of local charities. His report includes many quotes from Charity Navigator's president & CEO as well as a searchable database of pay at area charities.

If you are interested in supporting charities not located in the Tampa area, then check out our charity ratings which include information on the top executive's pay. And for more detail on the topic, consult our CEO Compensation Study which can be downloaded from our site for free.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mid-December Update

Our Mid-December update includes new evaluations for over 146 charities, including those for The Hunger Project (4 stars), The Glaucoma Foundation (3 stars), OPERA America(2 stars), USS Constitution Museum (1 star), and Iditarod Trail Committee (zero stars).

As always, our latest Top 10 lists are available to view as well.

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.

What Do You Plan To Eat For The Holidays

From latkas, to turkeys, to cookies, to sweet potato pie, food is a key part of the winter holiday festivities. Sadly, there are many Americans that are unable to buy a special holiday meal this year. Thankfully, many charities work hard to provide meals to the less fortunate. On our site, we offer some tips to help you find a charity to support so that people in your community can have a special, hot meal this holiday season.

Monday, December 14, 2009

New Books About Giving

Charity Navigator is featured in the new book, Ten Ways to Change the World in Your Twenties, written by environmental advocate Libuse Binder. The book is a collection of ideas and resources to help millenials tackle today’s toughest issues. Ten Ways includes information to help twentysomethings make a difference by:

  • Digging into what they love
  • Volunteering in ways big and small
  • Leading an eco-active lifestyle
  • Turning their passion into a vocation
  • Supporting political actions that reflect their values

Another book, SMART GENEROSITY: Everything You Need To Know About Charity, Philanthropy and Giving Wisely, by Renata Rafferty offers practical advice, real-life stories, and extensive recommendations guaranteed to uncomplicate even the largest philanthropic gifts. Ideal for financial planners and charity professionals, the book provides:
  • FIVE steps to defining your philanthropic focus
  • FOUR ways to assess a charity
  • The ONE question to ask before making a gift
  • The TEN warning signs a donor should never ignore

Ken Berger, Charity Navigator’s president & CEO, calls this new book “A rare voice of clarity and wise counsel for donors.”

Happy Reading!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Hanukkah

Hanukkah , the Jewish festival of rededication (also known as the festival of lights) starts tonight. It is an 8 day holiday during which each night a candle on the menorah is lit.

The Jewish faith has a strong tradition of Tzedakah- giving to those in need. In fact, Jews are expected to give 10% of their net income to charity. As such, some families will use the time spent together during Hanukkah to select and donate to a charity.

What a wonderful family tradition that really anyone can include in their winter holiday celebrations! Be sure to visit our site for tips on how to make the most of your holiday giving.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

(Guest Blog) Award winning documentary film on Aid in Africa – What are we doing here?

There are hundreds of aid organizations with fancy brochures, emotional marketing campaigns and claims of ending poverty. The trouble is, after somewhere between 500 billion dollars and a few trillion dollars (no one know that exact amount of aid given to Africa), most Africans are poorer than they were before receiving that aid. What happened?

Not being experts, but knowing enough to realize that statistics, studies, and aid organizations tell at best a simplified version of the truth, we decided we needed first-hand experiential knowledge. We traveled from Cairo to Cape Town, across 12 countries and spent six months talking with people, hanging out, sharing a meal, exchanging stories and learning from African people and those who were working on “fighting poverty.” As documentary filmmakers, we naturally filmed everything (around 350 hours) – which was eventually edited down to an 84 min film titled "What are we doing here?"

Aid organizations, celebrity activists (and documentary filmmakers) often present Africa as a place to feel sorry for; a place that is helpless and without our assistance, will be doomed to a horrible existence. We found something different: that Africans’ are far from helpless and that often our good intentions are not only ineffective, but can often be destructive. There are some things we (NGOs, governments and individuals) can do to help, but there are also lots of things we can do that cause problems and don’t help. Check out our trailer and find out how you can see the film at www.whatarewedoinghere.net.

Written by Tim Klein, one of the four directors/producers of “What are we doing here?”

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

One Gift Card, Two Gifts

Still looking for that perfect holiday gift? How about picking up one of the new GiveCards.

With GiveCards the giver selects the donation amount starting at $5. The recipient activates the card and donates the pre-selected amount to a charity of their choosing. The recipient then spends the rest of the card amount anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted. The cards can be personalized and arrive within 5 business days after your purchase.

And the best part is that GiveCards has partnered with Charity Navigator so that our data is accessible to guide recipients in selecting a charity. Please do not hesitate to contact us to learn more about opportunities to share our data with your site's audience.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Bryant Gumbel Has Lung Cancer

Sadly, Bryant Gumbel, host of HBO Real Sports and former Today Show anchor, has announced that he's being treated for lung cancer. According to the CDC, more people die from lung cancer than any other type of cancer.

Visit our site for a list of charities working to find a cure for and generate awareness about lung cancer.

Since smoking is a major risk factor, you may also want to support a charity, like Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids or Action on Smoking and Health , that is working to limit the number of people who smoke.

Saving Philanthropy

As you may know, we are working to expand our rating system to include an assessment of each charity's accountability and programmatic outcomes. The following provocative video, "Saving Philanthropy," makes the case for charities to measure their outcomes and for foundations to fund such analysis. If you want to learn more about this topic, then we suggest you visit Ken Berger's blog where he's been holding discussions on outcome measurement.

Monday, December 7, 2009

How Many Requests for Funding Did You Get This Past Year?

One of the donors that uses our site conducted an experiment this past year. From 12/1/08 - 11/30/09, he keep a record of each time a charity sent him an appeal for support. As he says, "results tabulated below show how many mailings we received during the period. The numbers are, eh, impressive.It is incredible how much mail some charities send."

American Diabetes 24
World Vision 18
Special Olympics 14
Smile Train 13
ALS Assn 13
American Fd for the Blind 13
American Lung 11
American Red Cross 11
American Cancer Society 11
ASH 10
Planned Parenthood 10
Nat’l Park Conv. Svc. 9

We know many donors share his frustration with the number of appeals they receive from charities. How about you? How many times a year should a given charity contact you seeking support?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Upcoming Webinar

Becoming a High Performing Organization

State of the Field and a First Look at the Outcomes and Effective Practices Portal

3pm-4:30pm (EST), Thursday December 10, 2009

Mounting interest in identifying and funding high-performing nonprofits has left many social service providers scrambling to improve their performance. But where can organizations go to find the practical resources needed? What are effective practices and how do you measure outcomes? How do you then put these resources into practice to transform your organization into a high-performing nonprofit?

In this webinar, Kristin Moore (Child Trends) will provide an overview of the resources available to youth serving organizations. Anisha Chablani (Roca) will then discuss how Roca has leveraged available research along with knowledge from internal performance data to improve outcomes for the young people they serve. And then, Mary Winkler (Urban Institute) provides a first look at an exciting new web resource called the Outcomes and Effective Practices Portal (OEP) – a joint project with Social Solutions. The OEP aims to become the single, comprehensive resource for nonprofits to access the information and related measurement tools needed to run highly effective programs. Click here to register.

International Charity Rating Groups

We get several emails each week from international donors inquiring about a Charity Navigator like service in their country. And we've been approached by many people around the world who are interested in establishing a rating service. Some have traveled from as far as Asia to meet with us to learn from our experience!

The good news for donors is that there are charity evaluators taking shape in England, Sweden, Israel and Canada. As the philanthropic sector expands around the world, and the demand for the type of data we provide with it, I'm sure so will the number of countries with nonprofit rating services.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December Update

Our December update includes new evaluations for over 300 charities, including those for Locks of Love (4 stars), Marine Toys for Tots Foundation (3 stars), Gifts in Kind International (2 stars), The Wilderness Society (1 star), and Hale House (zero stars).

Please also check out the new Top 10 lists.

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.