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.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Time Is Running Out To Make Charitable Gifts In 2011

The clock is ticking! You have just a few hours left to make a gift to a qualified charitable organization in order to reduce your 2011 tax bill.
  • Go to our site now and give only by clicking on the ‘Donate Now’ button located on your favorite charity’s ratings page. An added benefit of giving through our site is that you’ll be able to access your 2011 giving history when you are ready to complete your tax return.
  • And if our evaluations have helped guide your charitable decisions this year, we hope you’ll consider a donation to Charity Navigator. We are a 501 (c)(3) public charity and donations to us are tax deductible to the full extent of the law.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Milestones in Philanthropy in America

We have a strong tradition of charitable giving in America. Here are just a few notable moments in our philanthropic history:
  • 1643 - The first account of a fundraising drive in America is organized by Harvard University. It raised 500 pounds.
  • 1917-Thanks to the Revenue Act of 1917, taxpayers can deduct their charitable contributions off their federal income taxes.
  • 1964 -Although giving in the Federal workplace goes as far back as the 1940s, it wasn’t until in 1961 that President John F. Kennedy authorized the creation of a formal fundraising program. Launched in 1964, the first Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) raised $12.9 million.
  • 1999 -New legislation requires charities to provide copies of their three most recently filed Forms 990 to anyone who makes a request in-person or in writing.
  • April 2008 -With evaluations of over five thousand charities, Charity Navigator is the nation's largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities.
Visit our site to learn more about America's giving history. And check out this page to learn more the types of Americans that give the most and how we compare with the Europeans.

Photo by H.Damke via Shutterstock.com.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Importance of Year-End Donations

In a recent survey, we asked charities “what percentage of annual contributions from individuals does your charity receive at year-end (roughly speaking the time from Thanksgiving to New Years)?" The answers literally ranged from 0% to 100%. But on average, these charities receive 41% of their annual contributions in the last few weeks of the year!

And if we probe deeper it appears that online giving, probably due to its convenience, may actually be stronger during the holidays than other types of giving. Specifically, Network for Good reports that >30% of annual giving via their donation processing system occurs during December. Furthermore, 10% of the donations they process annually come in on the last 2 days of the year.

Will you be one of the donors making an online gift before the end of the year? If so,
  1. Check out our year-end giving tips.
  2. Use our free site to select a charity.
  3. Then make a donation online by clicking on the 'donate now' button on the charity's ratings page.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Charity Navigator's CEO on Fox Business News Today

Watch this clip to find out how to pick a charity.

Still Looking for a Charity to Support at Year-End?

Check out our list of Highest and Lowest-Rated Charities by cause. And if you don't find a charity there that matches your philanthropic passions, then check out these other tools:

And be sure to read Charity Navigator's Year-End Giving tips before you write a check or make an online gift.

Photo provided by valdis torms via Shutterstock.com.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Did You Know?

  • Contributions are deductible in the year made. Thus, donations charged to a credit card before the end of 2011 count for 2011. This is true even if the credit card bill isn't paid until 2012. Also, checks count for 2011 as long as they are mailed in 2011 and clear, shortly thereafter.
  • Even with the recent economic decline, over 50% of the organizations evaluated by Charity Navigator have increased their programs and services while also increasing their primary revenue.
  • More than 13.3 million people—greater than the combined populations of New York City and Los Angeles—are in need of immediate assistance due to the food crisis in the Horn of Africa.
  • Retailers took in over $45 billion in sales during the four-day weekend surrounding Black Friday, 2010. Arts charities took in $13.28 billion in contributions for the entire year of 2010.
  • 51% of the organizations evaluated by Charity Navigator have accumulated at least a year's worth of working capital to fall back on during economic downturns, up 26% from two years before.
  • Charitable giving by America's biggest companies is not expected to increase in 2011.
Read up on these and other Giving Facts on our site. Then impress your friends and family with your knowledge at your holiday dinner table.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Finally, Finish Your Holiday Shopping Today!

What? You haven't finished your holiday shopping yet and you are determined to give something meaningful. Well, then a Good Card sounds like the answer for you.

You get a tax-deduction and the recipient (relative, friend, client or coworker) has the opportunity to support his/her favorite charity. Together you make a difference and feel good this holiday season.

You can order an email Good Card through 12/23.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tweet-A-Thon To Encourage Informed Giving

Do you use Twitter? Then how about giving us a shout-out? We kindly ask that you send out a tweet to encourage your followers to be informed donors this holiday giving season. Simple tweet one of these messages today, tomorrow or next week. Sending a tweet anytime between now and the New Year can help prevent your family/friends from making a giving blooper. More importantly, if we all think more about our giving, then together we can ensure that the best charities are on the receiving end of all of our holiday generosity!

1 million charities want your support. Use @CharityNav free #CharityRatings to find one you can trust http://ht.ly/7ZH53

@CharityNav provides tips and 1000’s of  #CharityRatings so you can be an informed donor http://ht.ly/7ZH53

Which orgs have the highest/ lowest #CharityRatings? @CharityNav has the answer http://ht.ly/7ZH53

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Much Is Spent On The Charity’s Mission?

We get this question from time to time from new users of our site. Here’s the answer:

On every charity’s ratings page, under the section titled, Financial Performance Metrics, is a metric called Program Expenses. That shows you how much of the charity’s budget was allocated to the programs and services that it exists to provide.

For example, Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research spent 90.8% of its budget on its programs and services. This is a good figure. Of the 5,500 charities we rate, the vast majority at least 75% on programs, 10% or less on fundraising and 15% or less on administrative costs.

For those that are new to our site, you should also know that all of the metrics on the charity ratings pages are clickable. And when you do click on them, the resulting pop-up page will give you a definition of the metric and show you how we calculate it. This is what you’d see if you clicked on Program Expenses.

If you want more details about how we rate charities, then you can find all of that under the Methodology or FAQ sections of our site.

Also, if you are new to Charity Navigator then you might enjoy watching the recording of our December webinar. The focus of the presentation was our tips for year-end giving, but the Q&A portion offers a brief overview of our site. We are planning to do another webinar in the coming months which will focus entirely on how to use our site and interpret the ratings data. Be sure to subscribe to our monthly newsletter so you will receive an invitation to participate in the webinar.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Types of Charities

In a recent survey, we asked donors about the types of charities that they’d be likely to support this holiday giving season. As indicated in the graph below, Human Services (62%) charities came out on top with Arts, Culture, Humanities (27%) charities on the bottom. It seems logical that donors would be more likely to support Human Services charities (food banks, homeless shelters and the like) at year-end when the religious nature of the holiday season reminds us to be thankful for what we have and to remember those who are less fortunate. And it similarly follows that Arts groups would be less likely to be on our mind at this time of the year. Adding to that the recession, which historically speaking has been  a period during which donors redirect their giving away from cultural nonprofits towards those that help the needy, and we can easily understand the responses to this question.

What about you? What types of charities are you planning on supporting this year-end giving season?

Monday, December 12, 2011

CN on Fox Business News

Ken Berger, Charity Navigator's President & CEO, was on Fox Business News on Friday discussing charitable giving tips with host Gerri Willis.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Now, That's A Lot Of Appeals For Support!

As we’ve reported many times before on this blog, some donors get hundreds of appeals from charities each year and they don’t like it! I mention it again as this very topic was the focus of a recent article in The Oregonian which revealed that one donor received at least 220 solicitations in the past year! The reporter, Brent Hunsberger, very cleverly titled his article “Some Tips on Giving Defensively.”

I got a kick out of that, but it also made me sad. Is it really too much to ask that our favorite charities respect our wishes and refrain from sending numerous and expensive appeals? Moreover, shouldn’t they protect my privacy and keep my contact information confidential? Rest assured that many charities really do respect their donors in this way, but you as a donor need to check that out FIRST before you give.
    • Start by checking Charity Navigator’s site to see if the charity has a donor privacy policy (whereby they promise not to share/sell/ trade your information).
    • Consider giving anonymously. Many online tools allow you to do just that!
    • Review our site for more tips on how to avoid a mailbox full of appeal letters.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Spread Joy with Charity Gift Cards

Holiday shopping has never been so easy! Give a Good Card - the gift that keeps giving. You choose the amount (and get the tax deduction)... they choose the cause.

  • Avoid the mall and keep your sanity.
  • Buy through 12/9 to ensure delivery of physical Good Cards in time for the holidays.
  • Buy through 12/23 to ensure delivery of email Good Cards in time for the holidays.
  • Your loved ones can choose from thousands of charities.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Latest Helpful Reviews

During the year-end giving season, we're asking donors to help each other out by writing a review of their favorite (or not so favorite) charities. And we promised to highlight some of those reviews throughout the months of November and December. Here are a few charities that received reviews within the past week that were voted most helpful.  

Now, help your favorite charity get featured here and on our Holiday Giving Guide.  Don’t delay - Write a Review!

Experts Explain: How to Choose a Charity

Check out this smart film by the folks at SmartMoney that features Charity Navigator's year-end giving tips.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Charitable Tax Deduction

The Revenue Act of 1917 first created the charitable income tax deduction. It has long encouraged Americans to give back to their communities by providing tax deductions for contributions to charitable organizations. In fact, studies have shown that the tax policy has a big impact on charitable giving. For example:
  • Itemizing households accounted for 70% of the $229 billion in charitable donations in 2008.

  • The 2 % of taxpayers in the top bracket were responsible for 33 % of all charitable giving in 2008.

  • The power of the incentive can be seen in the timing of charitable giving, with more than 20 % of annual online charitable donations made on December 30 and 31. We see this at Charity Navigator when our web traffic spikes dramatically at the end of the year, even in just the last few hours of the year!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mail From a CN Donor

Today, we received this nice note from one of our donors.

"I just wanted to thank you for your great work. With the state of the world today, here and abroad, my family has chosen to give more to those less fortunate and less to ourselves. I love being able to know just what is spent where when I look at a charity of interest. One of the first things I did was support you so this service remains available to all."

As always, we thank everyone who uses our service to make informed giving choices as well as everyone who supports our efforts so that our site can remain FREE to both donors and charities. THANK YOU! 

Thursday, December 1, 2011