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, November 25, 2010

An Alternative To Black Friday

Did you know that retailers took in $10.66 billion in sales, in one day, black Friday, 2009? In comparison, arts charities took in $12.3 billion in contributions, in all of 2009.

Before you go out to the stores, why not rethink some of those gifts on your list? I’m sure some (if not all) of your family and friends would be thrilled to receive a Good Card – which enables them to donate to their favorite charity. And since you can buy Good Cards online, you don’t have to get up in the middle of the night and stand in a long, cold line waiting to do your shopping.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Data Analysis Prompts Changes To How We Rate Charities

At Charity Navigator, our Analysts constantly monitor the financial data we collect on the charities we rate. We do this to ensure that our benchmarks – described on the Ratings Tables page of our site - for scoring the performance of the charities are fair and objective. It is through this ongoing research that we have learned that certain types of charities began to feel the impact of the recession more dramatically than others in 2009. This has led us to adjust the benchmarks by which we assign scores for nine causes of charities. As a result, 97 charities now have improved ratings. Please visit our site to learn more.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nonprofit Innovators Talk About Impact

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend NextGen:Charity, a conference designed to help nonprofit professionals learn from other successful leaders and innovators (Charity Navigator’s own president & CEO, Ken Berger, presented). During the event, there was a lot of talk about the importance of measuring impact. And there was and equal amount of honest revelation that most charities aren’t yet tracking their impact.

Here are some of the speakers’ comments that stood out for me:

  • When Scott Harrison, founder of charity:water, was getting started, he said his friends were vocal about what was keeping them from giving more to charity. They flat out didn’t trust charities and they wanted some assurances that their contributions were really making a difference. So, Scott put some relatively inexpensive technology – a GPS devise and Google Maps - to use to show how the very first dollars he raised built wells. This helped him quickly build trust in his brand. He suggested that fundraisers will have more success if they sell an opportunity to support a charity rather than guilting others into donating. And he advocated sharing failures (as was the case when one of his wells failed to produce water).

  • Scott Case, co-founder of Priceline.com, CEO & vice-chairman of Malaria No More, and chairman of the Board of Network for Good, had one of the best tips --- plan to go out of business after you’ve accomplished your mission. Here are his 5 reasons why every charity should operate under that premise:

    1. Everyone wants you to go out of business as that means you’ve accomplished your goal.

    2. It helps you prioritize the outcome ahead of the organization.

    3. It frees up your creatively.

    4. It frees up resources.

    5. And, finally, he says it is a good reason to have a party.

Scott also stressed the importance of having measurable goals (how else will you know if and how to change your course of action), that are achievable and that have a time constraint.

  • Ami Dar, the founder and executive director of the very popular Idealist.org, used his time to talk about why it is that we haven’t yet solved the world’s greatest problems. He’s done a fair amount of research on why people do or don’t get involved. First, he asked people “what do you want to do?” And he found that few people had ever been asked that before. Then he asked “what can help you do it?” Among other things, he learned that people are more likely to get involved if they had a ‘buddy’ to participate with and also if they could see the impact of their efforts.

  • The executive director of the Robin Hood Foundation, David Saltzman, believes that measurement in the nonprofit sector is way behind measurement in the for profit world.

  • Katie Hood, CEO of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research said her charity is committed to measuring its impact, but needs to be more disciplined in those efforts. She also stress that it is important to be as honest in communicating areas of impact as areas of failure.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Nonprofit Experts Offer Tips For Assessing A Charity's Results

One of our giving tips this holiday season is to check out a charity's results before you make your donation. But that's no easy task! So we asked our Advisory Panel to share their tips on how you can find out more about your favorite charity's outcomes.

Here's a sampling of what they said:

  • Sean Stannard-Stockton suggests donors ask charities a variety of questions including "How has the nonprofit adjusted its activities in response to new information?"
  • Leigh Tucker says "...don’t be afraid to contact the organization directly and talk with them about their mission and how your donations are put to work. Most nonprofits welcome the opportunity to talk with their donors about how funds are utilized."
  • Laura Callanan suggests that donors check to see where the big foundations are investing their money.

You can read the rest of their tips on our site.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Know What Your Charity Does Before You Invest

There are more than a 1,000 breast cancer charities in America today. And, no, they do not all fund research or provide assistance to those afflicted with the disease. Some exist to promote awareness and some, as this story from MSNBC highlights, aren't yet sure what it is they want to accomplish. As Ken Berger points out in the story, it is O.K. and even appropriate, for new charities to take their time to develop their programs and services. But as a donor, you should take the time to check that out on the front end, before you make your donation. That way, if you really wanted to fund research and not a start up group, you would direct your money elsewhere.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday's Film

This Friday we offer you our Holiday Giving Tips in video format to help you get the biggest bang for your charitable buck this season.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Today is Veterans Day

Veterans Day, November 11th, is an annual celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism and sacrifice. And there sure are lots of ways in which you can commemorate this holiday. For example, you can attend the national ceremony or even a local one in your community. You can send a note of thanks someone currently serving in the military or to someone who previously served. You can make a donation to a military related charity, such as the 4-star Fisher House Foundation or the 4-star Veterans of Foreign Wars Foundation. You can tie a yellow ribbon around a tree. And yet another way to celebrate is to visit one of our country’s 100+ amazing national parks because on Veterans Day you are permitted to enter for free (of course, if you can afford it, they’d appreciate a donation).

Friday, November 5, 2010

Charting Our Course

In case you missed it, we wanted to take the opportunity in this space to update you on our progress toward the creation of CN 2.0, the revolutionary next generation of Charity Navigator. Our new rating system, scheduled to debut at the end of 2012, will provide donors a 3-dimensional view of each of the charities we rate. We hope you'll consider joining the legions of Charity Navigator friends and fans who have provided vital financial support for this endeavor. If you'd like to help, you can do so here. Thank You!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tis’ The Season For Charitable Appeals

As you open your mailbox or email inbox over the next several weeks, you will surely come across a charitable appeal as this is the traditional charitable giving season. If you are one of the millions of American’s that will make a charitable donation between Thanksgiving and New Years, then we encourage you to check out our 2010 Holiday Giving Guide. It includes:

Finally, if you do plan to give, we hope you'll take our short online survey so we can learn how your plans compare to how you gave last year at this time.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Supporting Charities That Provide Holiday Meals

With Thanksgiving approaching, many of us open our mailboxes to find a letter from a local charity asking that we cover the cost of their providing a hot meal to those in need. And if you read this blog, then you know this is an especially challenging time for these types of charities. So, to help you ensure that people in your community can have a special, hot meal this holiday season, we've posted a set of tips. Check it out now and then go write that check.