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.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Memorial Day - Commemorating Our Heroes

Monday is Memorial Day, a day set aside to commemorate all the men and women who have died serving our country. If you choose to honor their heroism with a donation, then consider one of these highly-rated charities:

Fisher House Foundation
Homes For Our Troops
National Military Family Association
Disabled American Veterans Charitable Service Trust

Check out our Hot Topic, Support Our Troops, for a more extensive list of charities.

Each day, based on a particular holiday or event (like Memorial Day), Charity Navigator’s experts select 4-5 highly-rated charities to highlight.
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Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Boy Scouts Pay Their Top Leader Very Well

Here's a video from WFAA-TV in Dallas/Fort Worth that takes a look at the high level of compensation for the CEO of the Boy Scouts of America National Council. How high? So high that it prompted Ken Berger to say "it's off the charts."

What do you think? Is the >$1.5 million salary the CEO of the Boy Scouts received reasonable? In comparison, that's more than 2.5 times what the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA receives.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Government Charity Drive Does Not Vet Charities

On msnbc.com today, is a must read, very informative article for anyone who gives via the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). If you don’t know, the CFC is the nation’s largest workplace giving campaign, which gives federal civilian employees, members of the military, and U.S. Postal Service workers the opportunity to contribute to charities. Since the CFC was created in the early 1960s, it has generated billions of dollars in contributions.

The article referenced above takes a critical look at less-than-stringent criteria used to include charities in the campaign and the resulting fact that some less-than-stellar organizations --- such as the 0-star Help Hospitalized Veterans --- end up in the campaign. We’ve written about this issue before (more than once) in order to educate potential CFC donors and warn them that they still need to do their homework in selecting a charity. Furthermore, we’ve cross-reference our database of charities with those enrolled in the national/international CFC. Of the more than 850 charities in our database that match up, 4 have a 0-star rating and 63 have a 1-star rating. On the flip side, the 365 4-star charities and the 266 3-star charities demonstrate that government employees shouldn’t fear giving via the CFC --- so long as they check out the charities first.

To locate a rating for a specific charity enrolled in the campaign, simply enter its CFC number in the search box. Alternatively, you can limit any search to charities in the CFC by using our advanced search tool or by selecting CFC as a filter criteria on the search results page.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sometimes A Corporate Gift Can Hurt A Charity’s Brand

Charities engage in corporate partnerships as it helps their bottom line and usually results in increase awareness of the charity and its mission. One of the reasons why corporations have philanthropic programs is to burnish their image. But what happens with the for-profit’s image takes a hit? How does that impact the charity? That’s exactly the problem that Aquarium of the Pacific is facing.

Several years back, the aquarium accepted money from BP to fund a new sea otter exhibit. Talk about bad timing! The new exhibit is set to open this week just as BP’s massive oil spill is on everyone’s mind. The Los Angeles Times takes a look at how the Aquarium of the Pacific, as well as other charities that have received funding from BP (Los Angeles County Museum of Art and KCET), are dealing with this situation.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

"Take What You Need, Leave Your Fair Share."

What a cool experiment!

Panera Bread, under the name Panera Cares Cafes, is testing out a first of its kind nonprofit restaurant (for now you have to travel to St. Louis to give it a try). Customers come in, order their food and then instead of paying for their selections they are asked to donate whatever they think is appropriate. If you can’t pay, then you are asked to volunteer. Proceeds will cover the costs of operating the story and any extra money will be donated to community organizations.

An article in USA Today identifies similar experiments that have been successful. But what this really reminds me of is the bagel story from the book Freakonomics.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New Email Phishing Scam - In The Name Of Charity

Be careful of emails claiming to offer a job with a well-known charity.

The FBI says that in this phishing scheme, email recipients are offered the opportunity to fundraise for the well-known Habitat for Humanity. In case the person isn’t hooked for altruistic reasons, the email then entices folks to sign up because they are permitted to keep 10% of whatever they raise. Those that sign up, then unknowingly forward donors credit card information to the criminal’s account.

As I write this all I can think of is something my father often said when I was a child (yours probably did too): “if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.” So, if someone contacts you seeking funds or offering you a job like the one described above, be sure to follow up directly with the charity to confirm the solicitation or job opportunity. Our site includes each charity’s direct contact information and a link to its legitimate website.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pace Of Giving Haiti

Today’s USA Today takes a look at the pace of giving to Haiti earthquake relief charities. The paper reports that in the four months since the earthquake, Americans have generously given $1.3 billion! This figure is similar to the pace of donations after the Asian tsunami, but below the pace of giving in the wake of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

Some speculate that the reason giving to Haiti isn’t greater is that the recession is having a dampening effect. I tend to agree, but I think there is probably more at play here. Could it be that people are worried that their donation may not have the desired impact because of the corruption that Haiti is notorious for? Is it that the desperation seems so great that some people think their small donation might not have an impact? Maybe the popularity of text donations resulted in smaller gifts to Haiti as compared to other disasters.

So, I’m curious to know. What made you decide to give or not give? And if you gave to Haiti and one of the previous disasters, did you give less, more or the same to Haiti?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New, In-Depth Reports Available from Charity Navigator and Foundation Source

Charity Navigator has had an ongoing partnership with Foundation Source, the nation's leading provider of support services for private foundations, where our ratings data is seamless integrated ninto its site. This relationship has enabled their clients to thoroughly research their charitable investments and thus have greater confidence in their giving choices.

We're thrilled to announce the expansion of this relationship with the co-development of Charity Reports, a comprehensive organizational assessment of charities exclusively available to Foundation Source clients (although we eventually plan to make this resource available to everyone). To learn more about these new reports, you can listen to a 45 minute Webinar on the topic given by Ken Berger, Charity Navigator's President & CEO, and Page Snow, Foundation Source Chief Philanthropic Officer, and view the corresponding power point slides.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Need A Last-Minute Gift For Mom?

Mother’s Day is this Sunday. Thankfully, if you forgot to get Mom a gift, it isn’t too late to pick out something meaningful! When you buy a Network for Good Card, she’ll get the opportunity to make a donation to her favorite charity. And for you last-minute purchasers, the best part of this option is that Good Cards are available in e-mail and print-at-home formats.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Telethon for Flood Victims in Middle Tennessee

With all the other big news items of late (Oil spill, New York City thwarted terror attack) many have not heard or seen too much about the terrible flooding in Tennessee. Well tonight a telethon (Working 4 You: Flood Relief) will be held to try and raise funds to help those affected by the flooding. Performers will include Vince Gill, Keith Urban, Naomi Judd and Amy Grant to name a few. Funds raised will be going to The Salvation Army, The American Red Cross and The Second Harvest Food Bank.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Commitment to Keeping Kids Safe

Thanks to IntegraScan, a Charity Navigator sponsor, any organization (charity or not) is eligible to receive free criminal background checks of employees and volunteers through its Safe Kids program. With the looming summer camp season and plentiful youth outdoor sports programs going on at this time of year, we wanted to highlight this vital service once again.

Last year, as the economic downturn erupted, this civic-minded company was dismayed to see requests for these all-important checks drying up. They decided to do something about it by donating $6 million in annual free background checks so that everyone involved can rest easy knowing that their children or those they oversee are safe and secure. And, even though the economy has improved somewhat, IntegraScan's commitment to the Safe Kids program continues at the same level. Click here to learn more and to sign your organization up. And thanks again, IntegraScan, for your commitment to corporate social responsibility!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May Update

This month, our analysts have updated more than 500 charity ratings. They also added 5 charities to our site. If you would like your favorite charity reviewed, then feel free to make a suggestion, track your request, and consider sponsoring the charity's rating. Please remember that we can not process requests unless you provide the charity's EIN#. You can find out more about what's been happening at Charity Navigator over the last month by reading our President & CEO's monthly report and our May newsletter (set for distribution tomorrow).