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, February 27, 2012

Careful Claiming Car Donations

As the popularity of car donations increased in the early 2000s, the IRS became concerned that taxpayers were often overvaluing such donations and charities were receiving very little revenue. According to a 2003 report by the Government Accountability Office, a 1983 donated truck sold for $375, provided the donor a $2,400 tax deduction and funneled just $31 to the charity that the transaction was intended to benefit!  The IRS tried to crack down on these abuses in 2005 via a new federal law that made it more difficult for donors to inflate the value of their cars in order to get bigger tax breaks. As a result, car donations declined 78% from $2.6 billion in 2004 to $573 million in 2008.

Concerned by this drop in charitable income, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that some lawmakers want to ease up on the law.  Whether or not that happens remains to be seen. So taxpayers that are claiming a deduction for making a car donation should continue to be very careful in how they value their deductions. We offer tips on our site to help you make an accurate claim.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

As I work on my taxes, how can I obtain a record of my giving history?

As everyone begins to roll up their sleeves and get going on their taxes, we're getting lots of inquires about how our users can download a report with their 2011 giving records.

For those of you who donate online at our site (via the Donate Now button), you are actually doing so via a tool provided by our partner Network for Good. The way the system currently works, Charity Navigator does not have access to your Network for Good account. So if you gave in 2011 through our site, then you’ll simply need to visit Network for Good and log in to your account to access your giving records. In the not-too-distant future, we hope to be able to provide those reports to you on our site.

Friday, February 17, 2012

President's Day

Monday is President’s Day – the federal holiday that honors George Washington.  Most of us have the day off and will enjoy the day by shopping or relaxing. Some of us may even spend a little time learning about the U.S. Presidents. And just maybe, a few people will want to skip the sales and make a charitable donation in honor of the holiday. If that applies to you, then consider one of the following presidential charities, check out our list of charities that Support the Troops or use our site to review thousands of charity ratings for one that matches your philanthropic interests.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Donations by Politicians (Continued)

Yesterday, Rick Santorum released his tax returns which give us a picture of his charitable giving over the past 4 years. Those documents show that he and his wife gave between $13,000 and $30,000 to charity each year. That amounts to 1.76% (in 2010) to 2.67% (in 2009) of their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). Their tax returns did not disclose the names of the charities that they supported.

Read our previous blog posts to see how Santorum’s giving compares to President Obama’s giving and the other GOP candidates’ giving.

Photo: Christopher Halloran / Shutterstock.com

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Turning Valentine's Day into Generosity Day

Last year, Sasha Dichter (Acumen Fund’s Chief Innovation Officer) got together with Katya Andresen (COO of Network for Good), Scott Case (CEO of Malaria No More), and Ellen McGirt of Fast Company to re-invent Valentine's Day.  Inspired by Sasha’s month-long "Generosity Experiment," where he said “yes” to every request for help, they decided to launch "Generosity Day." The goal was to make Valentine's Day about more than flowers, chocolates, and romantic dinners, to reconnect it to generosity for all.

“GenerosityDay” is back this year and you are invited to participate. Here are some ideas for how you can participate in Generosity Day.

  •  Leave a $5 tip on a $2 cup of coffee.
  • Sign-up for a volunteer activity in your community.
  • Go out of your way to do something nice for a friend, family member, or colleague.
  • Pledge to spend at least an hour helping someone with something you're really good at.
  • Make a donation to your favorite charity, or help someone in need.
  • Purchase a Good Card (a charitable gift card) and give it to someone you love.

For more about “Generosity Day,” check out this video:

Check out this video to learn more about Sasha Dichter’s "Generosity Experiment”"

Friday, February 3, 2012

A Donor’s View of the Nonprofit Sector - "I Had No Idea!"

One of the questions we frequently get is “why don’t you rate charity XYZ?”

Our response is “despite the fact that we evaluate, for free, ten times more organizations than anyone else in America has ever attempted, many deserving (and not deserving) ones exist that we haven't gotten to yet. You may know that there are now approximately 1 million charities in this country. We evaluate a lot of them. In fact, the ones we evaluate account for roughly 50% of the donations in America. But, obviously, there are many still to do.”

After sending that information back to a user of our site (along with some tips to help her do her own analysis on the charity she was considering supporting), I got the following response “thank you very much for answering my request in so much detail. I had no idea about the real situation with charities [that there are so many]. It encourages me to give more but also to be pickier.”

I liked her email as that’s exactly what Charity Navigator is all about! We provide our free rating service so that donors will make smarter choices about which charities they support and feel confident in giving generously to those charities. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

You Asked Us To Rate More Charities and Today We Deliver

Before making a donation, philanthropists across America have come to rely on Charity Navigator’s 5,500, free, objective charity ratings. But despite the fact that we evaluate ten times more organizations than anyone else in America has ever attempted, and despite the fact that those charities account for roughly 50% of the donations in America, many deserving (and not deserving) charities exist that we haven't gotten to yet. As a result, the most frequent communication we get from donors and charities alike is a request to add a specific charity to our site.

Knowing your desire for more charity ratings, we are thrilled to announce the addition of 20 more charities to our site thanks to funding provided by the Hobbs Foundation. For eight years, the Hobbs Foundation, located in Florida and known for its support of charities that benefit children, has funded our analysis of more charities. In all, their generous support has enabled us to add more than 150 charities to our site.

Check out the newly added charities now!