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.

Friday, April 29, 2011

US Tornado Disaster Relief

Yesterday’s storms and tornadoes, destroyed homes and business and killed hundreds of people in several southern states. Here are the charities that we know are responding:

Photo from shutterstock.com.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Give a Mother’s Day Gift from the Heart

With Mother's Day just around the corner (May 8th), are you still looking for a meaningful gift for mom? It’s hard to think of a more thoughtful gift than making a charitable donation in her honor. But, maybe you’re not sure which charity your mom is interested in supporting. No problem. Purchasing a Good Card allows her to pick the charity to receive the donation. Don’t worry, you still have time to send her an electronic Good Card.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Be Good To Mother Earth

Communities across the country are offering special programs to help you celebrate Earth Day. You can explore the more than 300 environmental charities we rate for opportunities to volunteer or donate to honor Mother Earth. Here are a few such charities that you’ll see featured on our homepage today:


Photo provided by Shutterstock.com.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Counting Charities

According to the latest report from the IRS, there are now nearly 1.3 million charities and foundations in existence in America. That’s more than double the number that were around just 15 years ago! However, the total figure may drop by as many as 320,000 later this year when the IRS revokes the nonprofit status of charities that have failed to file their annual informational tax forms over the last three years. Interestingly, growth of new nonprofits may be tapering off as only about 60,000 groups applied for nonprofit status in 2010 --- a 30% decline since 2007.

Photo provided by Shutterstock.com.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Obama’s 2010 Giving – How Do You Compare?

In 2010, President Obama and his wife donated 14% of their income. That amounted to just over $245,000 which went to 36 different charities. Specifically, they gave:
If President Obama’s proposal to limit charitable tax deductions for the wealthy were in place, then he and his wife would have had to pay another $26,131 in taxes.

Vice President Biden and his wife gave 1.4% of their income, or $4,400, to 8 charities including:

  • $1,400 to the Northern Virginia Community College Alumni Scholarship Fund
  • $1,000 to the Westminster Presbyterian Church

Photo from Shutterstock.com.

Monday, April 18, 2011

CBS And The Central Asia Institute

As you may have heard, CBS ran a news story this past weekend that included allegations against the Central Asian Institute. As we prefer to deal with facts and data, and not rumors and accusations, we do not feel it would be appropriate to downgrade a charity’s rating simply based on a media report. In fact, in the past we’ve seen such reports later recanted when it was revealed that the accusations were false. And in this case, the reporting is already contested by the charity.

So, we responded by posting a Donor Advisory for this charity. Donor Advisories are a way for us to alert our users to information that we think they need to consider in their charitable giving decision, but information that falls outside of the normal process we use to rate a charity. You can learn about our advisory process in the methodology portion of our site.

Our current rating system is based solely on the financial performance of charities. Obviously, the financial health of charity shouldn’t be the final say in the worthiness of that organization to receive a donation. We recommend that donors check a charity’s finances, accountability/ transparency and results before giving. More advice for how to make a fully informed giving decision can be found in the ‘tips’ portion of our site.

Finally, as you may already know, Charity Navigator is in the process of expanding our rating system to include accountability and results measures in addition to our financial ratings. For more information regarding our plans, please click here.

April's Write A Review Campaign: Children & Families

On our website, you will find ratings for more than 160 Children's and Family Services charities. These are organizations that provide child care, adoption, foster care, family counseling, parenting education, and other advocacy and child welfare services that strengthen families and promote the well-being of our children. If you've had a personal experience with one of these charities, then we encourage you to write a review, now, so that other donors can be informed by your story. The 5 Children's & Family Services charities that get the most reviews during the month of April will be featured in Charity Navigator's May newsletter.

Write A Review Now
How Do I Write A Review?

Friday, April 15, 2011

9 Years Of Rating Charities

Since launching our donor service on April 15, 2002, we've helped millions of donors make responsible and informed charitable decisions. During that time we've grown from 1,100 ratings to 5,500, enhanced our member benefits, redesigned our site, improved our search tools and expanded our methodology.Link

Our President & CEO, Ken Berger, marks this special occasion by taking a look at the past and the future of Charity Navigator and the nonprofit sector.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Introducing Charity Navigator's Newest Top Ten List!

With the popularity of our Top 10 Lists, we thought it would be informative and fun for you to know how vital your support is to us and how deeply it would be appreciated!

Please press play, or copy the link below into your browser to view a message from Charity Navigator's President & CEO, Ken Berger. GoldMail Rich-Media Player http://play.goldmail.com/j0b9o9aoy6ni Powered by GoldMail

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Recognizing Outstanding Volunteers

Because we make judgments about the performance of charities and their worthiness for support, we have come to frequently rely on Pro Bono Partnership’s legal experts for assistance. If you’ve never heard of this organization and you work/volunteer for a charity, then you need to check them out! The Pro Bono Partnership (a 501 (c ) (3) public charity itself) provides pro bono business legal services to nonprofit agencies in Connecticut, New Jersey and New York, in the belief that the knowledge and application of sound legal practices make nonprofit organizations more effective and better able to focus their resources on supplying vital services to the community.

Specifically, Pro Bono Partnership’s lawyers have helped us with issues such as:
  • Protecting our proprietary data
  • Mitigating the threat of litigation for speaking out
  • Reviewing partnership contracts
And at a recent reception hosted by Pro Bono Partnership, Charity Navigator’s president & CEO, Ken Berger, had an opportunity to publically thank Ginger H. Stillman, Contract Manager, Verizon Wireless for her assistance to us. Ms. Stillman has worked with us on several partnership agreements. Her expertise and attention to detail ensured that our best interests were protected. Once executed, these agreements enabled CN to generate much needed revenue and to launch a fruitful partnership which is enabling us to amass a workforce of volunteers to help us expand our ratings methodology.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Are You Maximizing Your Charitable Donation Deductions?

The deadline for completing your taxes is just around the corner.

If you are just getting started, then be sure to first review our tips for maximizing your charitable deductions.

Congrats to you if you are already done! Why not take a moment and put your knowledge of the rules governing charitable tax deductions to the test.


Image from Shutterstock.com.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Some Facts About Our Data – Part 4

Here’s how the numbers stack up for the typical charity in our database ---- a large, sophisticated, and financially healthy organization.

  • The median charity generates $4.9 million in total revenue.Link

  • 81.5% of the median charity’s spending goes to programs, 9.4% goes to administration costs, and 7.3% goes to fundraising. The median charity spends 10¢ to raise one dollar in contributions.

  • The median charity shows a 3.9% increase in primary revenue growth and a 5.9% increase in program expense growth over the last three to five fiscal years.

  • The median charity also maintains enough working capital to cover more than 11 months at current levels of spending.

  • The median charity receives an overall rating of 3-stars.

  • Among the charities evaluated by Charity Navigator; 30% obtained a four-star rating, 34% received a three-star rating, 24% received a two-star rating, 10% received a one-star rating and only 2% received zero stars.

Photo provided by Shutterstock.com.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Some Facts About Our Data – Part 3

While the most of the 5,500 charities we rate are indeed fiscally responsible and financially healthy, not all charities are equal.

  • A little more than a quarter of the charities evaluated by Charity Navigator ran an average deficit in their past three to five fiscal years.

  • 13% devoted less than 70% of their budgets to their programs and services and 4% devote less than 60%.

  • A third of the charities have experienced a decline in their primary revenue over the past three to five fiscal years.

  • 22% of the charities have contracted their programs over the past three to five fiscal years.

  • 16% maintain less than a month’s worth of working capital.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Trusted Charities

Harris Interactive recently conducted an online survey of more than 25,000 U.S. consumers to see which brands, across 53 categories, are among the most trusted. In the nonprofit category, participants were given 79 charities for consideration. They were asked to point out which ones they trust and which ones provide the best value to society. Participants were also asked to select the charities that they’d be willing to support with a financial contribution.

Below are the top 10 charity brands, according to the Harris Interactive survey, with their Charity Navigator rating. And we’ve also included a link to our new ‘write a review’ tool powered by GreatNonprofits. This way, if you didn’t get a chance to participate in the Harris survey, then you can still share your feedback on our site.

  1. Best Friends Animal Society (3-stars) Write a Review

  2. Susan G. Komen for the Cure (4-stars) Write a Review

  3. Shriners Hospitals (3-stars) Write a Review

  4. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (3-stars) Write a Review

  5. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (4-stars) Write a Review

  6. Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (we do not rate hospitals)

  7. National Kidney Foundation (3-stars) Write a Review

  8. Metropolitan Museum of Art (4-star) Write a Review

  9. American Diabetes Association (1-star) Write a Review

  10. Goodwill Industries International (does not meet our rating criteria)

Image provided by Shutterstock.com.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Some Facts About Our Data – Part 2

The majority of the 5,500 charities we evaluate are financially healthy organizations.


  • Seven out of ten of the charities examined by Charity Navigator spend less than 10% of their budget on fundraising costs, less than 15% on administration costs, and at least 75% on the programs and services they exist to provide.
  • Over their past three to five fiscal years, half of the organizations demonstrate at least 5% growth in their primary revenue and program expenses.

  • Half of the organizations have accumulated at least a year’s worth of working capital (aka rainy day fund).
Photo provided by Shutterstock.com.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Some Facts About Our Data – Part 1

Charity Navigator has information on 5,500 of the largest charities in America that depend on support from donors. Here’s some information about our database of charities:

  • In their most recent fiscal year, these charities generated approximately ­­$174 billion in total revenue.

  • The median total revenue for the charities we rate is $4.9 million.

  • Of this $174 billion in total revenue, some $94 billion came from contributions from individuals, corporations, foundations, and government grants.

  • These same organizations reported spending $192 billion.

  • Roughly 86%, or $166 billion, of these expenses were reported as program expenses. Administration expenses accounted for 9%, or $18 billion, and fundraising expenses accounted for the final 4%, or $8 billion.

  • The highest compensation received by a CEO of these charities was $2.4 million; however, the median CEO compensation was a much lower figure of $130,000.

  • The charities we evaluated reported total net assets equaling $426 billion.

You can access our 5,500 ratings, for free, on our site. And using our sector analysis tool (also free for registered users) you can review aggregate data on the performance of charities by location and mission.