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, June 30, 2011

From One, to Two, to Three Dimensions and Beyond!

Here’s a look at Charity Navigator’s past, present, future and beyond.

CN 1.0: In April 2002, Charity Navigator launches a website with a tool that rates the financial health of charities. Thus, CN 1.0 is born.

CN 2.0: During Q3 2011, Charity Navigator integrates the Accountability & Transparency data it has been collecting since 2010 into each charity’s star rating. Now Charity Navigator rates charities on two dimensions – (1) financial health, (2) accountability & transparency. This is when CN 2.0 comes to life. (Stay tuned for more information on this important step by following us on: facebook, twitter, this blog, our President & CEO’s blog or simply subscribe to our newsletter.)

CN 3.0: In the coming years, Charity Navigator captures results reporting data and then integrates it into its star rating system. At that point in time, Charity Navigator will be rating charities in three dimensions – (1) financial health, (2) accountability & transparency, (3) results reporting.

After CN 3.0, we will continue to hold fast to our core value of ‘continuous improvement’ working, ultimately, towards a rating system that measures outcomes.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Top Charities that NJ Donors have Questions About

NJ’s Division of Consumer Affairs has recently begun to publish a list of the most inquired about charities. In other words, these are probably the charities doing the most soliciting – either by mail or telephone - in recent months. Charity Navigator happens to rate a few of them and here’s how they stack up:

By the way, you can easily search our database of 5,500 charities by state using our advanced search tool.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Review Health Charities --- Now

Time is running out to participate in the Health campaign we've launched in partnership with GreatNonprofits. If you are a donor, volunteer, employee, Board member or a client of a Health charity, then we want to hear about your experience. So long as it is based on your personal interaction with the charity, then we want to hear about it -- that includes both good and bad experiences.

On Friday, the campaign ends and we’ll tally all the results. The 10 highly-rated Health charities that receive the most reviews will be featured in our next newsletter (subscribe here) and in a new Top 10 list.

Click here to find out how you can get started reviewing one of the nearly 600 Health charities on our site.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Want A Meaningful Career?

"I want a meaningful career – not just a job. But how do I get there?"

If that sounds like you, then the new book, Work on Purpose!, is for you! Published by Echoing Green, Work on Purpose tells the stories of five changemakers and their journeys from struggle and uncertainty to significance and success. Through these true-life narratives, Work on Purpose offers its readers a simple—yet powerful—framework: heart + head = hustle. In other words, personal fulfillment and societal impact are the result of aligning passion and talents.

Work on Purpose!
By Lara Galinsky and Kelly Nuxoll
Foreword by Lance Armstrong and Doug Ulman of LIVESTRONG
Afterword by Geoffrey Canada of Harlem Children’s Zone

Buy it on Amazon

And be sure to check out our site for more great books related to the nonoprofit sector.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

What Does $291 Billion Buy?

I just sat in on an Arabella Advisors webinar that took a closer look at the newly released data on giving in 2010. Here’s a sample of some of the key points made during the presentation:

  • There is some evidence that consumption is a better indicator for giving than wealth.

  • Giving is impacted by the economy, people’s income and their consumption. That said, it is still amazingly resilient.

  • When giving dips, people reduce the number of charities that they support. However, they tend to hold fast to those that they’ve always supported.

  • 1/3 of all donors do not itemize on their taxes.

  • The bigger question isn’t how much American’s give in a particular year, but rather what did all that money buy? Was the $291 billion donated in 2010 more or less effective than the $280 billion given in 2009? (Charity Navigator is working to build a rating system that better tracks effectiveness).

  • Corporations are less likely to buy tickets to special events (galas, golf outings) and more likely to support charities via cause-related marketing.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Charitable Giving In 2010

The annual report on giving is out today and the news is mixed. The good news from Giving USA Foundation is that giving is on the upswing growing 3.8% from 2009 to 2010. The bad news is that it hasn’t increased enough to offset the dip in giving in 2008 & 2009. In other words, the nearly $291 billion donated last year, was still more than 6% below the 2007 record.

How’d the nonprofit sector do in 2010?

  • Total giving to charitable organizations was $290.89 billion in 2010 (about 2% of GDP).

  • Giving increased by 3.8% from 2009 when giving was $280.3 billion.

  • Revised Giving USA data shows that total giving has grown in current dollars in every year since 1954 except for 1987, 2008 and 2009.

Who gives?

  • Most of the money flowing into the sector continues to come from individuals. Specifically, individuals gave $211.77 billion or 73% of total giving. Giving by individuals grew by 2.7%.

  • 14% of donations came from foundations for a total of $41 billion (down 0.2%).

  • Bequests accounted for 8% of donations or a total of $22.83 billion (up 18.8%).

  • Giving by corporations ($15.29%) amounted to just 5% of all giving in 2010. But that represented an increase of 10.6% over 2009 due to increased cash and in-kind support by pharmaceutical companies.

Where does all that money go?

  • 35% of all donations, or $100.63 billion, went to religious organizations (up only 0.8%). In the 56 years this report has been published, religious groups have always received the greatest portion of total giving. Most of this giving is to the donor’s house of worship.

  • At 14% of giving in 2010, the next largest sector was education. In total, education charities received $41.67 billion (up 5.2%).

  • 9% of donations went to human services charities. That amounted to a total of $26.49 billion in 2010 with no substantial change from 2009.

  • 8% went to health charities for a total of $22.83 billion (1.3% increase over 2009).

  • 8% went to public benefit charities for a total of $24.24 billion (6.2% increase over 2009).

  • 5% went to arts, culture, humanities charities which received a total of $13.28 billion (up 5.7%).

  • 5% went to international charities for a total of $15.77. International charities saw the biggest growth in giving (15.3%), in part, because of the earthquake in Haiti (January 2010).

  • 2% of donations went to environmental and animal charities (no substantial change from 2009).

Friday, June 17, 2011

Using Trained Volunteers

The Corporation for National and Community Service recently highlighted Charity Navigator's efforts to expand to a three-dimensional rating system, utilizing Keystone Accountability's Civic Voices Volunteers. The blog describes the current challenges faced by rating organizations, non-profits, donors and consumers alike. While it is imperative to gather data regarding the impact an organizations' programs have, many are strapped for resources to do so. Using the service of trained volunteers may be the solution they are looking for:

"Recruiting and training volunteers to get customer feedback seems like a common sense approach that serves several aims. Nonprofits want to make an impact in the communities they are serving, but they are faced with having to do more with less. If they recruit and train community volunteers, they keep costs low, build individual capacity, and build community capacity."

You can read the entire blog by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Donors - Is it OK for a charity to spend >90% on fundraising?

The Committee for Missing Children has a long track record of spending too much on fundraising. We’ve issued 6 different ratings (all 0-stars) for this charity and during that time it has spent as much as 91.8% on fundraising and never less than 84.5%. In comparison, most charities in our database spend 10% or less on fundraising thereby devoting upwards of 75% of their budgets to their charitable missions.

What does The Committee for Missing Children’s CEO have to say about its tremendous inefficiency when asked by WSB-TV reporter Aaron Diamant? "My conscience is clear." Watch the video to see all of the charity’s comments as well as commentary by Charity Navigator’s own President & CEO, Ken Berger.

Monday, June 13, 2011

This book has been written for YOU!

Charity Navigator's very own President & CEO, Ken Berger, is a contributing author of the new book, You and Your Nonprofit: Practical Advice and Tips from the CharityChannel Professional Community. It is written for both those who want to learn more about the nonprofit sector as well as nonprofit professionals who want to improve their leadership, management and fundraising skills .

You and Your Nonprofit:

  • Explores planning issues that are often a challenge to nonprofit organizations.

  • Provides models for improvement of management, governance and leadership.

  • Presents best practices related to the science and art of fundraising.

  • Addresses many of the day-to-day issues that confront nonprofit leaders and professionals.

  • Provides practical and replicable problem-solving suggestions.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Skip The Ties And Shirts --- Give Dad A Meaningful Gift

Father's Day (6/19) is quickly approaching!

Are you at a loss for what to get dad? Give him the gift of charity. It’s hard to think of a more thoughtful and unique gift.

But, maybe you’re not sure which charity your dad is interested in supporting. No problem. Purchasing a Good Card gives him the ability to select the charity to receive the donation.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Guess Who Is #5 On Kiplinger’s List of 20 Financial Innovations You Can’t Afford to Ignore

That’s right- Charity Navigator!

We were selected as a “Money Management Innovation” runner up for “helping millions of people become philanthropists.” That puts in the same category as Mint.com, TurboTax and Mobile Banking Apps --- pretty nice company to keep.

And it was also nice to see that our friends at craigslist were included as one of the “Spending Innovations.”

Thursday, June 9, 2011

IRS Cleans Up Its Nonprofit Roster --- 275,000 Small Groups Lose Nonprofit Status

Starting in 2006, thanks to a provision in the Pension Protection Act, small charities are no longer exempt from filing annually with the IRS. Specifically, those with gross receipts of $25,000 or less must file the Form 990-N (AKA e-Postcard). The law also specified that charities failing to file the Form 990-N for three consecutive years would lose their tax-exempt status.

After warning the charities that had failed to comply that they were about to lose their nonprofit status and giving them a second chance to file their documents, the IRS has finally revoked the tax-exempt status of 275,000 groups. After Wednesday’s action, the nonprofit sector shrunk by 17% to 1.3 million groups. Not all, but many of the organizations that had their tax-exempt status revoked are charities. So, as a donor, you should be aware that subsequent gifts to these organizations are not tax deductible.

Finally, if you are affiliated with a charity that has lost its tax-exempt status, then you should know that the IRS has left the door open for you. Groups can reapply for their tax-exempt status and have it reinstated retroactively. The fee for that process is $850, but the IRS says in certain circumstances it may lower the fee to $100.

Tips, Tips and More Tips

A sometimes overlooked portion of our site, is our Tips & Resources which is designed to help donors of all kinds make smart giving decisions. There you'll find help for reducing the number of appeals you receive by mail, for what to do when a charity calls, and for how to be an informed giver in times of crisis. Our site has information about the tax benefits of giving as well as advice for those that want to donate a car, used goods or their time. Finally, we include a robust set of steps for conducting your own evaluation of charities that we do not yet rate.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

3 Things To Check Before You Give

At Charity Navigator, we believe that there are three components to making a wise philanthropic investment. First, a philanthropist must determine whether the charity is financially healthy. Second, they should review the charity’s accountability and transparency practices. Third, they need to assess the charity’s results (a sustained change for the better for people and communities who receive services).

By the end of this summer, our star ratings will take into account the first two dimensions. And, in the not-too-distant future, we plan to add the results dimension. Stay tuned.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday's Film

This video, from BYU TV's Fresh Take, discusses how to make informed decisions about your charitable contributions. The segment starts off with Charity Navigator's President & CEO, Ken Berger, giving an overview of how to be a smart donor. Then Rebecca Cressman and Jennifer Borget discuss eight top-rated organizations.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Help Identify Great - or Not So Great - Health Charities

This month, in partnership with GreatNonprofits, we’ve launched a campaign to capture and share your personal experiences --- as a donor, volunteer, employee, Board member or client served ---- with Health charities. We want to hear the good or the bad, so long as it is based on your personal interaction with the charity. At the end of the month, we’ll tally all the results and the 10 highly-rated Health charities that receive the most reviews will be featured in our next newsletter (subscribe here) and in a new Top 10 list.

Click here to find out how you can get started reviewing one of the nearly 600 Health charities on our site.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Children's Aid Society's 4 Star Streak Continues

With a 60.16 rating published on June 1st, Children’s Aid Society is the first organization in Charity Navigator history to receive 11 consecutive 4 star ratings.

On another positive note, the Society receives high marks on our accountability review as well. We believe that charities that are accountable and transparent are more likely to act with integrity and learn from their mistakes because they want donors to know that they're trustworthy.

Congratulations to the Children's Aid Society, keep up the good work!