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.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Invitation to Charities to Designate an Official Representative

The charities we rate have the option of designating an official representative to communicate with our analysts via a special log in on our site. There are several benefits of establishing a representative including the following:
  1. A charity's representative can suggest updates to the basic information we display about that charity including the organization's address, phone and fax numbers, mission statement and tag line. (Charities can never make any changes to their rating and even changes to basic information will not display on our public site until it has been reviewed by a Charity Navigator analyst.)
  2. 4-star charities can access logos and tools to promote their rating.
  3. Representatives have the ability to post a comment about their charity's rating on our public site.
  4. Charities can immediately notify us when they've made improvements to their Accountability & Transparency data. For example, if they've updated their site to include information we track (such as their audit, 990, staff listing), then they can submit links to that information via a form accessible only to official representatives. That data is then reviewed by a Charity Navigator analyst and the charity's rating will be updated accordingly on the first day of the next month.
Anyone at can be a Charity Navigator registered user, but only one employee at a charity can sign up to be an official representative. To ensure continuity, we recommend that a full-time employee, preferably in the fundraising area, take on this role. 
Signing up is simple and free!  
Image from Bigstock
  1. First become a regular registered user on the site.
  2. Log in.
  3. Access the registered rep application by following the instructions in the "Charity Login" section at the bottom of your charity's ratings page. 
  4. Within a week, we will notify, by email, that the representative has been approved. Once approved, the rep can begin managing their charity’s profile as indicated above.
Our site offers several FAQs about the registered representative process.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Careful when Supporting the Victims of the Colorado Shooting

After learning about the shooting in Colorado, many people feel compelled to do something, anything, to help. And for those who aren’t close enough to donate blood, a financial donation is the first thing that comes to mind. But as our President & CEO, Ken Berger, warned in a recent NBC News article, “disasters are a time when people run into a situation where they, to some degree, are flying blind because the charities they know — the ones they typically give to —  may not be providing services in the area. So it's a time that scammers are likely to prey on people, ... we strongly urge people to proceed with great caution."

If you are moved to give in light of the shooting at the Aurora movie theater on July 20th, then we encourage you to first review our tips for giving during a crisis and keep in mind our blog about social media scams. Then you might want to check out the Community First Foundation in Colorado which is collecting donations for local organizations that are dedicated to helping the victims and their families. The website for the Foundation (although we don’t rate it as it doesn’t meet our criteria, you can view its 990 online) lists 11 charities, including the 3-star Bonfils Blood Center Foundation
that will receive the funds collected to help those affected by the tragedy.  And CNN reports that the Foundation has already collected $2 million with the help of a large gift from Warner Bros (the studio that produced the movie).

Children’s Charity Scam on Facebook

There is no doubt that social media platforms – such as Twitter and Facebook – can be powerful tools for inspiring generosity. These services have the ability to serve up heart-wrenching photos and desperate pleas for help to our computers and phones. But we’ve often warned that donors should never give through these appeals as they can be created easily by criminals in an attempt to steal your identity and money. And that’s exactly what appears to be happening now on Facebook.

According to ZDNet, there is an appeal circulating on Facebook that asks you to donate to sick children. But the plea is not from a legitimate charity. Rather it is a clever tactic devised by criminals to entice you to provide your credit card number. Go to the ZDNet article to learn more about this virus and how you can clean your computer if you’ve been infected.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Charity ‘Suddenly’ Closes Its Doors

According to a report in a local newspaper, last week the Chicago based Y-ME National Breast Cancer Organization (which is also known as Breast Cancer Network of Strength, a name it attempted to rebrand itself within recent years)  fired its staff and shut its doors. The charity’s phones and website are not operational. And according to the news reports, a board member has indicated that the charity will be filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy this week.

Looking at this charity’s 1-star financial rating (which is no longer posted as it has been replaced by a Donor Advisory), we can see in the sustainability metrics (primary revenue growth, program expense growth  and working capital ratio), that this shouldn’t be a complete surprise to anyone. 

First, have a look at the trend in primary revenue growth and program expense growth over the years. We see a sharp decline in both over the last few years. In fact, the charity went from a high of $16.7 million in primary revenue in 2008 to only  $5.2 million in 2011 and a high of $11.8 million in program expenses in 2009 to just $5.6 million in 2011.  We often warn donors that when they see this pattern that the charity is in a risky, unsustainable financial position and that it is likely to cut critical staff and vital programs.

Second, look at what happened to the charity’s working capital ratio (“rainy-day fund”). We like to see charities have at least 6 months to a year of liquid funds to fall back on when times get difficult. If they have such reserves, then they have a much better chance of avoiding massive layoffs and shuttering their doors. Sadly, as revenues dried up, Y-Me begin to tap into its working capital, which went from a high of more than a year in 2003 to just a month in 2011.

Although it appears this charity is no longer operational, there are many other 4-star breast cancer charities. But before you donate, be sure to check our listing of breast cancer charities to see which ones are financially healthy, accountable and transparent.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Giving in 2011

In case you missed it, Giving USA recently released their latest report detailing how much America donated in 2011 and to which types of charities. A few of the more interesting items from the report include:

MoneyGraph via Bigstock

  • Giving by individuals (which includes bequests and family foundations) is critically important as it represents nearly 9 out of every 10 dollars donated.
  • Revised Giving USA data shows that total giving has grown in current dollars in every year since 1971 except for 1987, 2008 and 2009. The average rate of change in total giving in current dollars since 1971 is 6.8%. However, when adjusting for inflation, total giving has declined 9 times since 1971 (typically on our close to recessionary years).
  • Total giving in 2011 was $298.42 billion which is up 4% over 2010. But this is 11% below 2007, before the charitable sector felt the effects of the recession. 
We've posted more detailed information on our website.

All data property of Giving USA 2012, the Annual Report on Philanthropy.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

July's Write a Review Campaigns

Do you support or volunteer for a nonprofit that promotes health or that promotes social justice? The GreatNonprofits’ 2012 Top-Rated Awards gives you the chance to provide recognition for any group doing great work in these areas. 

Whether it’s a small local group or a national one, organizations that receive ten positive reviews during July will earn the title of “2012 Top-Rated Nonprofit” on GreatNonprofits' website.

If you've had a personal experience with a nonprofit, your story is useful feedback and helps inform others. Your feedback is a great way to inspire (or warn) potential supporters and concretely communicate the nonprofit’s impact. The most helpful stories are told by people who see a nonprofit’s work firsthand — as a volunteer, community member or existing donor.

Click here to find out how you can get started reviewing one of the nearly 200 Advocacy and Civil Rights charities or one of the nearly 600 Health charities on our site.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

We're Hiring

"We Are Hiring!" via Bigstock

We have an opening on our team for a Web Application Developer. Reporting to our Chief Information Officer, the Web Application Developer designs, develops, and implements website architecture as well as externally and internally focused web applications for Charity Navigator.   

View the Job Description to find out more about this unique career opportunity.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Philanthropy in the Classroom

We were delighted to receive a very special donation from a New Hampshire elementary school class.  In the note she sent along with the check, their teacher told us, "our third grade had a fundraiser to raise money to donate to charities of each child's choice.  They also chose Charity Navigator as an important charity that they would like to donate money to."

We're here to help philanthropists of all kinds make intelligent giving decisions, and applaud this teacher and the legions of others who are working to instill philanthropy and giving back in children at a young age. It is a vital life lesson that can never be taught too early! 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

America's Tradition of Charitable Giving

What a better time to highlight America's tradition of charitable giving then right after the 4th of July? Here are just a few notable moments in our nation's philanthropic history that we should be proud of:
  • 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.
  • 1953 - Approximately 50,000 groups have obtained charity status from the IRS.
  • 1990 - Approximately 40,000 organizations apply for tax-exempt status this year. The number of charities has grown to nearly half a million (489,882).
  • 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.
  • December 26, 2004- Millions of Americans opened their wallets and give a total of $1.54 billion to support relief causes in the wake of the disastrous tsunami in South Asia.
  • April 2012 - Charity Navigator , the nation's largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities, turned 10!
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, July 2, 2012

Which Charity has 12 4-Star Ratings and Helps Children and Families?

The Children's Aid Society!

Charity Navigator has been rating The Children's Aid Society since October of 2002. Each and every one of its ratings has been 4-Stars. And with the publication of our newest ratings on July 1st, it now has the distinction of being the only charity in our database to receive 12 consecutive 4-star ratings.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July 1 Update

Hundreds of charities received new star ratings today. Check our site now to see if your favorite charities earned new ratings and to learn which charities have just been added to our site.