Friday, April 2, 2010

Dispelling Myths About Charities

In our popular article, Five Charity Myths Dispelled, we tacked 5 common misconceptions about charities. Last month, Ken Berger participated in a panel discussion for reporters that focused on this very topic (read some of his comments here). At that event, co-hosted by Edelman, the Chronicle of Philanthropy and The Bridgespan Group, a list titled "Top 10 Myths in Covering the Nonprofit World" was distributed. I share these with you as many donors also subscribe to these beliefs.

Here are the first 5:

  1. Myth: All nonprofits are the same.
    Reality: There is incredible diversity in the nonprofit world, from small community-based tutoring programs to museums with major endowments.
  2. Myth: The philanthropy beat is an easy one to cover.
    Reality: Covering philanthropy is demanding and requires familiarity with a broad range of issues, from arts and culture to international development.
  3. Myth: Nonprofits are dependent primarily on private funding.
    Reality: The bulk of nonprofit funding comes from government sources.
  4. Myth: Most charitable giving is to support social services.
    Reality: More than a third of private giving is to religious organizations.
  5. Myth: Information on nonprofits is not available and hard to obtain.
    Reality: Helpful information on nonprofits' finances is easily available through [Foundation Center's Form 990 Finder, Charity Navigator] and charities' tax returns (990s) are public information and very useful.


4 comments :

jgsack said...

Myth #3: the article found at the link "The bulk of nonprofit funding comes from government sources" does not really make that point, unless I missed something.

Where can I find information on the promised claim?

~jim

Sandra Miniutti said...

The Nonprofit Almanac has more specifics:

http://www.urban.org/books/nonprofit_almanac/

jseliger.com said...

Here's another: nonprofits readily collaborate merely because they can. This is particularly pernicious in the context of proposals, as we discuss in "What Exactly Is the Point of Collaboration in Grant Proposals? The Department of Labor Community-Based Job Training (CBJT) Program is a Case in Point."

John Rose said...

"Myth: Information on nonprofits is not available and hard to obtain.

Reality: Helpful information on nonprofits' finances is easily available through [Foundation Center's Form 990 Finder, Charity Navigator] and charities' tax returns (990s) are public information and very useful.


But really how much does this tell us about the way these organizations are run? If the only information you had on Coca-Cola or Google was their tax returns, would you be able to accurately assess their long-term viability or corporate strategy? If Warren Buffett were limited only to tax returns as a basis for making his investment decisions, would he ever have been successful?