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.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nonprofit To Do List - File Form 990

Starting next month, nonprofits that have failed to file their Form 990, Form 990-EZ, Form 990-N or Form 990-PF for the last three consecutive years will lose their exempt status. Once the IRS revokes a nonprofit's exempt status under this rule, then the only way for that group to have its exempt status reinstated it is to go through the application process all over again.

And as the IRS points out online, losing nonprofit status has significant consequences. First, the organization will have to file income tax returns and pay income tax. Second, and most importantly for its supporters, donations to the group will no longer be deductible.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Idol Gives Back

On April 21, 2010 American Idol held a two-hour fundraising event which raised close to $45 million dollars. The money raised will be shared between the Children's Health Fund, Feeding America, Malaria No More, the U.S. Programs of Save the Children and the United Nations Foundation.

The Idol Gives Back Foundation is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization established by the producers of American Idol and FOX in 2008 to raise money and awareness to serve children and their families in need throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world. We do not rate this organization as of yet. Idol Gives Back Foundation does not meet all of our requirements for inclusion on our website. We require 4 years of Forms 990 to complete an evaluation. Up to this point, the Foundation has only filed one Form 990. Please check back at a later date for an evaluation.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Star-Studded Event Supports 4-Star Charities

Last week, on Earth Day, Christie's Auction House held a Green Charity auction. At the event, host Chevy Chase told the audience that all the proceeds of the auction would go to charities that were given 4-stars by Charity Navigator. Attendees got to bid on amazing items including a round of golf with President Bill Clinton, a private walking tour of NYC's famous Union Square Greenmarket and lunch with Mario Batali, and a trip of a lifetime.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Friday's Film

Last month, Ken Berger did an interview with Al Jazeera English in which he addressed the question "Is There Donor Fatigue Due To Giving in Haiti?" Here's the segment:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Turns 40

Today, marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. We thought you might want to celebrate by learning more about the following highly rated charities.

  • Earth Day Network

  • Earth Island Institute

  • EarthRights International

  • Friends of the Earth

  • World Resources Institute

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

      More About Online Giving In 2009

      Yesterday, we reported on The Chronicle of Philanthropy's 2010 online donation study. Today, we'll take a closer look at the various types of nonprofits and which specific charities raised the most and least online for 2009.

      Wednesday, April 21, 2010

      Study Shows Online Giving Up In 2009

      The Chronicle of Philanthropy has released its annual analysis of online giving. This year's study shows that online giving continues to grow even as overall giving declined. Specifically, of the 151 charities that shared their data with the Chronicle the median chariy saw an increase in online donations of nearly 15% while at the same time seeing a 9% decline in total contributions. On the other hand, many of them reported a decline in the average size of online gifts.

      Here are some of the highs and lows reported in the study.

      • The Seattle Foundation had the greatest percentage growth in online donations: 4663%. Online gifts to this charity grew from $4.2k in 2008 (when it raised least amount of money online among groups included in the survey) to $200k in 2009.
      • The Greater Chicago Food Depository had the greatest percentage drop in online gifts: -97.9% ($717.9k in 2008 to $269.2 k in 2009).
      • The United Way Worldwide raised the most online: >$335 million. This is a 36.7% increase for the organization over the prior year when it also reported the most in online donations (>$245 million).
      • The San Francisco Foundation raised the least online in 2009: $3,445. This is a 41% decline from 2008.

      Tuesday, April 20, 2010

      Don't Forget To Do Your Research

      We have said many times before that it is important for donors to do their due diligence, and research the organizations that are asking for their support. The most recent example of why we keep repeating this advice is the Coalition for Breast Cancer Cures (CBCC) in Long Island, which found its doors shut down by the Attorney General’s office.

      The Attorney General’s Office investigation showed that CBCC took in plenty of money, yet did not conduct any charitable activities. At least $500,000 has been defrauded, with generous donors left bewildered and demoralized. CBCC was aided by a professional fundraising firm, The Resource Hub, which was not authorized to solicit funds in New York State. In addition, even though CBCC listed a tax-ID number on their phony solicitations, they are not recognized by the IRS as a charitable organization.

      What should donors take away from this? Do your research. Use independent sources like Charity Navigator and the IRS to confirm that an organization is registered as a 501(c)(3), and that it is using your donations for the purpose it claims. As always, if a professional fundraiser calls you, we suggest you ask for information in writing, and if you wish to support the cause, donate to the organization directly, bypassing the telemarketer all together.

      Monday, April 19, 2010

      Results From Last Week's Poll

      Taking Successful Innovation To Scale

      What do David Gergen (Senior Political Analyst CNN, Editor-at-Large U.S. News & World Report and Professor of Public Service at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government), Risa Lavizzo-Mourey (President & CEO, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation), Robert Steel Former (Under Secretary for Domestic Finance of the US Treasury, former CEO of Wachovia Corp., former Vice Chair of Goldman Sachs, Co-Founder of SeaChange Capital and Chair of the Aspen Institute) and Ken Berger (President & CEO of Charity Navigator) have in common? All are participating in the 2010 Inaugural Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling. This first-of-its-kind conference will focus on innovative methods for scaling effective social programs. A mix of philanthropists, foundation officers, wealth advisors and social sector leaders will join together to explore ways of financing and implementing the growth of high-impact nonprofits.

      Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling
      When: Thursday, June 17, 2010 - Friday, June 18, 2010
      Where: Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City

      To learn more about the event and register go here.

      Friday, April 16, 2010

      Take Our Poll

      Presidential Giving

      Our interest in the giving habits of politicians continues with the release of the President & Vice President's 2009 tax returns. Here's what those documents show in terms of the Obama's and Biden's philanthropic endeavors for 2009:

      Thursday, April 15, 2010

      Happy 8th Birthday Charity Navigator

      Since launching our donor service on April 15, 2002 (see photo of original site design), 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 5,500, expanded our member benefits, improved our search tools, and even added more data to our charity evaluations. During that time, as our donors know, we've begun the process to transition from private foundation to public charity. And just this past month, we've moved our office as part of a cost savings initiative.

      As we celebrate our birthday, we want to thank the millions of Americans that use our data to make informed decisions and the thousands of donors who help support our continued existence.

      Tuesday, April 13, 2010

      Help Your Favorite Charity Get A Free Full-Page Ad In USA TODAY

      USA TODAY’s Kindness community says that the paper will give a FREE full-page, full-color ad to your favorite charity - if it gets enough votes on Twitter.

      Whichever charity gets the most #AmericaWants tweets and retweets between today and Friday will win the ad valued at $189,400. Each tweet must say "#AmericaWants (insert full name of charity) to get a full-page ad in USA TODAY." (You must include ALL WORDING in the quotation marks in order for your (re)tweet to be considered.)

      So, quick go to Charity Navigator and select a great charity from the 5,500 we rate. Then go to your Twitter account and start tweeting for it. Of course, you could also vote for Charity Navigator, a charity itself, which is like voting for all 5,500 charities! Here's how to vote for us:

      #AmericaWants Charity Navigator to get a full-page ad in USA TODAY.
      By the way, you can find Charity Navigator on twitter at http://twitter.com/CharityNav.

      Monday, April 12, 2010

      We've Moved

      Last Friday, Charity Navigator moved its office. If you want to send us a donation by check, you can now reach us at:

      Charity Navigator
      139 Harristown Rd
      Suite 201
      Glen Rock, New Jersey 07452

      Friday, April 9, 2010

      Top 10 Myths: Part 2

      Here's a follow up to our blog from last Friday.
      Myth 6: Nonprofits are poorly managed and should be run by people from the business world.
      Reality: Nonprofit management is a professional skill and many executives havea dvanced degrees and years of experience. The ability to use very little money to produce good results is undervalued.

      Myth 7: Nonprofits should welcome volunteers with open arms.
      Reality: It can often be a challenge for a nonprofit organization to find the right fit for volunteers, especially those looking to leerage their skills but with limited time available to contribute.

      Myth 8: Good nonprofits keep expenses low.
      Reality: Low administrative expenses are not the SOLE indicater of a well-run organization. Strong organizations are usually those that invest wisely in people and technology.

      Myth 9: The story of philanthropy is only about the wealthy.
      Reality: With a few exceptions (e.g., Bill Gates), the most generous Americans are those in the bottom 20% income bracket.

      Myth 10: Interest in philanthorpy is over.
      Reality: Over the past several years, coverage of philanthropy has expanded from the society pages to the business pages and blogosphere. There are many compelling stores waiting to be told and a broad-base audience eager to hear them.

      Wednesday, April 7, 2010

      The "Frozen Flashback"

      What do you get when you play a High School hockey championship game where the participants are all in their mid to late thirties? You get the "Frozen Flashback." In 1989, two private New Jersey high schools (St. Josephs & Delbarton) were set to play the State championship game when an outbreak of measles canceled the game. It would come to be known as "The greatest game never played." As the 20th anniversary came around last year, some of those players got thinking "why not play the game now and finally crown a champion?" The idea took off and turned into a fundraiser for the schools as well as some cancer charities (some of the players families had directly been affected by the disease). As an avid hockey fan and New Jersey resident I happily attended the game. It was a great event that got some major press. It was reported that the event raised over $200,000 for cancer charities. Charities benefiting included New Jersey based The Valerie Fund. Delbarton won the game 3-2 and now after 21 years there finally is a State champion. The players and the crowd enjoyed the game, and the Governor of New Jersey himself was there to present the winners their trophy.

      Our CEO's Predictions

      This month marks the 8th anniversary of Charity Navigator and our president & CEO, Ken Berger, takes this opportunity to look at the nonprofit sector and our role in it. Enjoy his article.

      Tuesday, April 6, 2010

      Charity Answers Questions About Efforts In Haiti

      The 4-star charity Direct Relief International is one of the many charities providing aid in Haiti. Not long after the earthquake, Direct Relief International took the time to answer 10 questions from donors submitted on the site reddit.

      One of the first questions addressed in the video (below) concerns how the many different charities are coordinating their efforts. Direct Relief International's representatives explained how the UN is using a cluster system to deal with the logistics of such a massive undertaking. Direct Relief International's CEO was even quoted in a New York Times article on this topic. The article, written by Stephanie Strom, looks at how nonprofits are trying to improve their collaborative response to disasters so that they can fundraise more efficiently and respond more effectively.

      Monday, April 5, 2010

      Children's Aid Society's 4-Star Rating

      The Children's Aid Society recently sent out a press release highlighting their 9 consecutive 4-star ratings. Here's how the favorable ratings have impacted their work:
      “Donors have told us outright that the Charity Navigator ranking has helped them decide to whom to donate,” said Children’s Aid President and CEO Richard R. Buery, Jr. “The economy has made donors uncertain; this ranking is a touchstone for them.”
      According to Children’s Aid’s Assistant Executive Director of Development Patricia M. Grayson, “a new donor who called in December who was interested in becoming a monthly donor said that he chose Children’s Aid because of our ranking on Charity Navigator. Another loved our services but needed Charity Navigator’s reassurance. We hear this a lot!”

      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.

      Thursday, April 1, 2010

      April Update

      Our April update includes new evaluations for over 550 charities, including those for Doctors Without Borders, USA (4 stars), Farm Aid (3 stars), EARTHWORKS (2 stars), Cancer Fund of America(1 star), and Children's Charity Fund Inc. (zero stars). We have also added 4 new evaluations: Goldwater Institute (4 Stars), International Crisis Aid (4 Stars), State University College at Oneonta Foundation Corporation (4 stars), and Helping Hand for Relief and Development (3 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.