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.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Can You Top This??!!

Last December, we asked you how many times you got requests for donations in the last year. This was in response to one of our site users telling us about the outlandish number of requests he received from 15 charities, including a whopping 24 from the American Diabetes Association. Well, his experience has now been topped!

Last week, in a letter he enclosed with his generous donation, one of our users informed us that last year he received 1,170 requests and that, so far this year, he's already received 862! Mailing list sales are obviously very much alive and well.

So, tell us--can you top this? And, for those of you who are fed up with the practice of solicitation bombardment (and we know there are a lot of you), here's some some valuable information about how to reduce the number of mail solicitations you receive.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

$1 Million Given Already This Year

Despite the challenging economic times and the resulting overall dip in giving last year, Charity Navigator users have already given $1 million this year to the charities on our site via our partnership with Network for Good (NFG). This is double the amount given during the first six months last year via NFG. No doubt, the amazing outpouring of support for Haiti relief efforts has something to do with the increase. In a typical year, Network for Good processes around $2.5 million in donations via our site with most of the transactions occurring in November and December (of course, this is just a fraction of the money that we influence annually as many of our users prefer to send a check directly to their favorite charity or to use another online giving system to make their contributions). It will be interesting to see if we exceed that figure by the end of 2010.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Today’s Video – Telephone Solicitations

Here’s a report about a women who is frustrated by all the phone calls she gets from charities seeking her support. If you find yourself in that position, then we suggest you check out our tips for dealing with such calls. You may also want to make sure the charity isn’t on our Top 10 list of Charities Overpaying their For-Profit Fundraisers.

On the flip side, the story includes an interview with the American Heart Association. They point out that without donations they couldn’t provide any of their charitable programs and services. So, they have to communicate with current and potential donors if they want to continue their work. But they also say that they do comply with anyone’s wish to stop receiving solicitations. You just need to let them know and they'll delete you from their database.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Alliance for Effective Social Investment Seeks Your Feedback

Charity Navigator’s president & CEO, Ken Berger, is a member of the Alliance for Effective Social Investing. This organization’s mission is to drive more funds to high performing nonprofit organizations by helping donors adopt sound social investing practices. The group is reviewing its membership policy and is looking for some help from those who might want to join. If that is of interest to you, then please read the following message from the Alliance:

The Alliance for Effective Social Investment is collecting feedback from current members and other stakeholders in effective social investment to better define the Alliance’s strategic priorities and membership policy. Please take a few minutes to share your thoughts and help shape the way ahead for the Alliance for Effective Social Investment.

All you need to do is follow this link that will take you right to the survey. Please take 10-15 minutes to fill in the survey until Friday, July 23. The findings will be discussed at the upcoming Alliance meeting end of July and acted on by current members.

Thank you for your feedback! We appreciate your interest and support. Feel free to invite others to participate in the survey as well and contact us should you have any questions or suggestions.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Coins And Trinkets – Do We Want It In Our Charity Appeals?

We’ve all opened our mailbox to find a charity appeal stuffed with address labels, trinkets and even money. Most donors find this incredibly frustrating. We want our contributions spent on the charity’s mission, not on expensive mailings. In USA Today, our president & CEO, Ken Berger, said it this way "whether its money, junk or knick, knack, paddy whack, we don't want it. We want to see charities using every nickel, penny and dime we send them." But Melissa Brown, associate director of research at the Center on Philanthropy, points out that charities “wouldn't do it if it didn't work."

What do you think about these mailings? Have you received a mailing with money? Did it motivate you to support the charity or to refrain from sending the charity another donation? Take our poll and let us know.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away, NOW!

The Atlantic Philanthropies, a well-known and much respected foundation, had its beginnings in the early 1980s when it was established with a gift from an anonymous donor. Eventually, it was discovered that the donor behind this foundation, which has made grants totaling more than $5 billion, is Chuck Feeney and that he gave virtually all of his money to the foundation. In fact, Mr. Feeney is so committed to his charitable pursuits that he owns neither a home nor a car!

More recently, the foundation has made an even bolder move. It plans to spend its entire endowment and close shop by 2020. Why this dramatic course of action? Because Mr. Feeney and the foundation believe in Giving While Living – the concept that major problems can be solved sooner and more easily if we make investments in solutions now.

But the foundation doesn’t want to stop there. They hope to inspire others to embrace this philosophy. To assist with that effort, they’ve published a report, Turning Passion Into Action: Giving While Living, that discusses the impact of giving in this way as well as tips for donors who are interested in putting this concept into practice. It even includes a slide show of several donors who embrace this philosophy.

What do you think? Is “Giving While Living” a good idea for the sector? Do you practice this concept?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

New To The Site - Donor Advisories

As you may have heard, the NY AG’s office has launched an investigation into the car donation industry which includes an examination of the finances of several charities. Two of these charities --- Heritage for the Blind and Joy for Our Youth--- are among those we rate. One other --- Breast Cancer Society --- is among those we can’t yet rate (it hasn’t filed enough years of financial data), but because we get so inquires about it (apparently due to the large volume of solicitations that it sends) we’ve posted an explanation on our site as to why we can’t yet rate it.

If you visit our site to check out those charities, then you’ll notice a red ‘donor advisory’ alert. If you click on it, then you’ll find information about the NY AG’s investigation. While this additional information does not impact the charity’s rating, we think it is important enough that donors should take it into account when considering supporting one of these charities.

You can learn more about how we decide to post an advisory by visiting the methodology portion of our site. And you can see an example of another donor advisory here.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Celebrate The 4th By Supporting America's Military

After the grilled hot dogs and before the fireworks this 4th of July weekend, you may take a moment to reflect on all the men and women who have given their lives defending our country and considered ways in which you could honor their sacrifice. And with America engaged in military action in the Middle East, you may even think about how you could provide assistance to injured soldiers and their families. Sadly, there are many "charities" that will use your compassion for veterans to coax you into supporting their inefficient, if not fraudulent, operations. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't give! To help you give with confidence to military and veteran-related charities this 4th of July, our site includes a hot topic and an article which highlight the highest and lowest-rated of these charities.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

We've Expanded Our Methodology

Today is a historic moment in the field of helping donors choose a charity to support. For the first time since we launched our free charity ratings in 2002, we are deepening our analysis by rolling out a whole new dimension to our rating system that examines each charity’s commitment to accountability and transparency. Now, the millions of donors that rely on our evaluations to make billions of dollars of donations each year will be in an even better position to make wise charitable giving decisions.

July Update

Our July update includes new evaluations for 676 charities, including those for Homes for Our Troops (4 stars), The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (3 stars), Grassroot Soccer (2 stars), Kids Wish Network (1 star), and Coalition Against Breast Cancer (zero stars). We have also added 9 new charities, including: Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation (4 Stars), The National Center for Family Homelessness (3 stars) and Heart for Africa (2 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.