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.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It's the Final Countdown!

You Have Just A Few Hours Left To Make Your Donations

This is just a friendly reminder that today is the last day to make your charitable donations if you want to deduct them from your 2013 taxes.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Charity Navigator Launches Beta Versions of Mobile Site and iOS App

For those of you who want to check out charities on the go, you can now do so using our beta Mobile Site and iOS app (for the iPhone). We are looking for feedback, both in terms of troubleshooting and more general thoughts about their functionality. So, please play around with the mobile site and app and let us know what you think!

We Did It!

We rang the NYSE Opening Bell this morning!

Here's the video:

Thursday, December 26, 2013

This Year...

  • Our analysts updated ratings for more than 5,500 charities' ratings
  • We added 1,037 new charity ratings to our site
  • We added a page of information for the remainder of the 1.4 million U.S. nonprofits
  • We added Results Reporting data for 600 charities

Join the 25,000 donors who gave close to $1.2 million to Charity Navigator in 2013 and Donate Now to ensure our accomplishments are just as plentiful in the new year.

Tomorrow's the Big Day

Watch it online here.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Time Is Running Out!

Your gifts to charity are an expression of your generosity and commitment to solving the problems that threaten our society. Even if your intentions are 100% altruistic, Uncle Sam still rewards your charitable endeavors by making these
gifts tax-deductible. But remember you must make your donation by December 31 to claim the tax deduction on your 2013 taxes.

Go To Holiday Giving Guide>>Go To Tax Benefits of Giving>>

Friday, December 20, 2013

Our Elves Have Been Busy!

We wish to thank you for using our service to guide your charitable giving this past year. 

To show our appreciation and to help you make an informed decision before the year ends, our elves/analysts have updated nearly 600 charity ratings and added another dozen charity ratings to our site today! 

Best wishes in all your charitable endeavors this holiday season! 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Clarity Before Charity

By Hayley Berlent

Holiday time is hardly “Silent Night” when it comes to nonprofits.  According to Charity Navigator, 40% percent of funds are donated during the traditional holiday season, and one can’t ignore the fundraising appeals delivered by phone, email and even on the sidewalk.

Nonprofits run the risk of overwhelming donors to the point that they might give nothing at all.  Clarity before charity—here are four principles for every nonprofit to follow:

Keep it simple
It’s no surprise that charity: water is a favorite among nonprofit insiders. As founder Scott Harrison told The New York Times last year, “Simplicity is key. Be able to tell your story simply…Show. Don’t tell.  And do it visually.” Perhaps a portion of their phenomenal 400% growth over the past four years is due the organization’s simplicity of story and consistency of delivery. It’s that simple.

Make it personal
Many nonprofits market their cause by talking about themselves. “We have 675 beds.” “We’re solving global problems.” “We serve 5 million members.” But rarely do these organizations explain the benefit of 675 beds, how they solve global problems or what’s the value of a membership base 5 million strong.  When we looked at organizations with avid, loyal supporters—the kind of supporters every nonprofit aspires to have—we identified something different:  They humanize communications and interactions. They give it a voice, a personality. They put faces on numbers and connect people to people.  DonorsChoose.org is a great example.  In construct, they’re an innovative crowd-funding platform—they connect causes (specifically teachers and classroom projects) with supporters.  How they differ and transcend platforms like Kiva, or even Kickstarter, is that they show the need, the connect you directly to teachers and projects and, the best part is that every time a project is funded, the teachers share a personal thank you—in the form or pictures or handwritten letters. The power of personal narrative and thanks (with measurable impact, too) has contributed to influencers like Oprah citing it as “supercool” and “revolutionary” and cultivated a rabid twitter following.  They take a potentially transactional experience and make it personal.

Inspire action
There is no greater turn-off than going to a nonprofit’s website and looking actively for ways to contribute only to be met by a donate button and transactional form that then requires four discrete actions or verifications to complete. Nonprofits who are defying these uninspired appeals include Amnesty International among others. Besides keeping their story simple (“fighting injustice and promoting human rights”) and making their brand personal through clear, engaging language and an approachable voice, Amnesty International inspires engagement and action for fundraising and beyond. There are opportunities to “sign up” and “defend human rights for all,” there is an opportunity to “donate now, “fight bad guys with every dollar,” and “act now,” with a very discrete action—at least on this particular day, which was “stop unlawful drone strikes.” They smartly lay out multiple avenues for engagement, use language that embraces their distinctive voice and they inspire through clear and specific calls-to-action.  Unlike so many organizations that tout what they do, Amnesty International balances what we can do together. That inspires action. 

Show impact
One of the most disappointing communications failures among nonprofits is the lack of tangible results or failure to follow-through on the appeal. I’m often left wondering, where did my money go? How do I know it was used in the way they promised? Did I help put a Band-Aid on the problem or contribute to lasting change? We’ve seen these concerns validated in large-scale quantitative research, too. To sustain a donor relationship, it’s critical that nonprofits ask and answer these questions. And, as we look to future donors and the new age of transparency in nonprofits heralded by the likes of Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, measurable results are only going to grow in importance.  The Gates Foundation, charity: water and the Robin Hood Foundation are all leading the way in showing impact—and aren’t reliant on the human testimonial alone. They use the power of storytelling through data visualization, video and, in some cases, GPS trackers to show money at work. That’s showing—and not just talking about—impact.

With more than 1.5 million nonprofits in the U.S. alone, inspiring charity demands clarity.  So remember, if your nonprofit truly strives to bring “Joy to the World” this holiday season and beyond, you must keep it simple, make it personal, inspire action and show impact.

* This article was written by Hayley Berlent, Chief Strategy Officer and Managing Director, for Siegelvision, a leading NYC-based branding firm.
For nearly 20 years, Hayley has helped cause-driven organizations achieve greater understanding, relevance and impact. As the engagement and strategy lead for several brand transformation efforts, for clients ranging from the Y (YMCA) to Aetna to Rotary International.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Guess Who Will Be Ringing the NYSE Opening Bell?

Charity Navigator, that's who!

We couldn't be more excited to have the opportunity to ring the New York Stock Exchange opening bell on 12/27 at 9:30 am.

We hope you'll tune in and watch the ceremony.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

What the Navy Charity Scam Means to Legitimate Charities and Generous Donors

By Ken BergerPresident & CEO of Charity Navigator

The conviction of John Donald Cody for his $100 million US Navy Veteran’s Association charity fraud is an instructive story about the inadequate oversight of the nonprofit sector by government. But what we find most unusual is the fact that he got caught, convicted and sentenced to 28 years.  Researchers have estimated that the amount of fraud in the charitable sector runs into the tens of billions of dollars each year. This is not surprising given the fact that the IRS audits an estimated one-tenth of one percent of all charitable returns and most are simply a cursory review of documents. Therefore, most charity crimes are never discovered and even when they are, few are successfully prosecuted as laws regulating nonprofits generally lack teeth. Therefore, the crime has to be so outrageous, as it is in the case of Cody's veteran's 'charity,' for charity regulators to win a case.  

The Need for a Watchdog
This crime illustrates the need for a service dedicated to evaluating and judging the performance of organizations like the US Navy Veteran’s Association. That's exactly what we do at Charity Navigator- we rate 7,000 charities (which garner roughly $110 billion in private contributions each year) and provide our analysis for free so that donors can know if a charity is worthy of a donation.

Which Types of Charities Have the Most Scams?
I have observed a pernicious tendency within at least four types of charities to perpetrate chicanery. Three of the four types -- police officers’, firefighters’ and veterans’ charities -- portray themselves as helping those who lay their lives on the line for the rest of us.  The fourth type, purports to assist children with cancer.   

All Charities Aren't Bad

In rating thousands of charities since 2001, we've come to learn that while there are quite a few charity fraudsters, there are also many wonderful charities out there that are doing an amazing job of helping millions of people every day. Their stories and accomplishments can often get drowned out as public trust is damaged in all charities by the chicanery of the John Cody’s of the world. In fact, there are thousands of charities on our site that get our highest 3-star and 4-star ratings. That means, donors with every type of philanthropic passion, located in every state, can find a charity to support.

What's a Donor to Do?
Cody's conviction should therefore serve as a reminder that all donors must do their due diligence before making a donation. And it also indicates that we must be especially careful when giving to charities that pull at the heartstrings – those that support the troops, military families, veterans, police, firemen and sick children.  In other words, we must use our heads, as well as our hearts.  At Charity Navigator we offer tips and thousands of ratings to help you make an informed giving decision. Here are some links to help you give with your head, not just with your heart:
Please also consider supporting Charity Navigator, a charity itself, so we can continue our work as a donor advocate and free charity rating service.

Monday, December 16, 2013

API Partnership Spotlight: Givelocity


Givelocity is a community for shared giving. Individuals and businesses can build or move into neighborhoods (giving circles) based on their philanthropic goals. By pooling donations and voting together, members can have greater impact on the causes that matter to them. Givelocity integrated the Charity Navigator API to help members easily access and learn more about top causes.


Charity Navigator's Ken Berger on Fox & Friends

Check out this interview with Ken Berger on Fox & Friends to learn how to ensure your charitable donations go to right cause. Then visit our site for more tips and 7,000 charity ratings.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

More Website Improvements!!!

Last month, I shared how in the pursuit of creating the ideal user experience, we had recently enhanced our website based on user wishes and feedback. Well, we're at it again! Here are some highlights:

1) Unrated organizations can now be added to “My Charities”. The “Add to My Charities” button can be found on the unrated profile and search results pages. 

2) A few other minor tweaks to the "My Charities" functionality:
  • The list can be sorted by charity name (default) or by the date it was added.
  • The list can now be viewed 100 charities at a time. (You know just in case you had that many;))

Please share, 1+, tweet and anything else you can think of to get the word out. This will help make our changes known to more people who will be able to benefit!

Friday, December 13, 2013

PGA Tour Tax Breaks Questioned

We have been working with "Outside the Lines" on their analysis of several PGA charities. Here's a preview of the story that will run at 8 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN2.

Friday, December 6, 2013

[Infographic] The Rise of the Nonprofit Sector

Some takeaways from the infographic:
  • The nonprofit sector is growing faster than the business and public sectors
  • Hospitals employ roughly 1 in 3 nonprofit workers
  • From 2007 to 2009, the nonprofit sector added jobs at a rate of 1.9% per year. This compares to a decline of 3.7% in the private sector.
  • In 2011, 64.3 million Americans donated 7.9 billion hours of of community service, equal to $171 billion worth of paid work;
  • Nonprofits plan to double their use of technology in 2013.
Long live the Nonprofit sector!

Click here to see the full infographic.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Charity Navigator API: Information and Ratings on Charities

This Q&A was originally posted on 3scale's website here
Charity Navigator uses 3scale to manage its API.

Sandra Miniutti, Charity Navigator API
An interview with Sandra Miniutti, Vice President of Marketing and CFO for Charity Navigator. In her role, she is responsible for all aspects of Charity Navigator’s brand, all partnerships, media relations, communications, outreach, data sales and the organization’s finances.

Tell us more about Charity Navigator API?
Charity Navigator is America’s leading independent charity evaluator. Our API has extensive information and ratings on 7,000 charities headquartered in America (but serving every country in the world). These 7,000 charities receive more than half of all private contributions made in the USA each year (not including houses of worship). Furthermore, our API also includes basic information on the remainder of the 1.6 million nonprofits registered in the U.S. We offer an API that gives developers access to all of this high-quality, comprehensive nonprofit data which can be easily integrated into any app or website.
What API(s) does Charity Navigator offer today?
We offer two levels of service with our API; basic and premium.

The basic API provides overview information on all the rated and unrated organizations in our database and is 100% free. It requires links back to the Charity Navigator website along with attribution.

The premium API is for customers looking for white label use of our extensive database. There is a fee associated with the premium API, but it provides complete access to our data and does not require linking back to our site (although attribution is still required).
When did Charity Navigator realize that it needed an API?
About two years ago, we recognized that the online world was changing and that we could have more influence if our expert analysis was readily accessible on other platforms and applications. It was also around this time that we noticed an increase in requests for our data from donor advised funds, philanthropic advisors to entrepreneurs looking to give back as their businesses grow as well as websites of all kinds that have a charity donation portal. We put our heads together with a friend of ours, Craig Newmark (the founder of Craigslist), and determined that an API would lower barriers to and expand the reach of our data. Wanting to see more givers make smarter choices, thereby driving increased social investment capital to higher performing nonprofits, Craig Newmark agreed to fund the creation of the API.
What recommendations and tips would you give to a company planning to launch an API?
As you develop the API, think about the conversations you’ve (hopefully) had with potential customers and end users and build the features that you believe they’d most want to see in your API.  And keep in mind it is a lot more work than just building the technology – you have to develop the right legal documents, tech manuals and marketing materials. And you may need to consider additional staff resources to provide adequate support to your clients.
Why and how are you using 3scale API Management Platform today?
We use 3Scale to package, manage, and distribute our API to a growing developer network. Given our small staff, using 3scale allows us to offload virtually all of the administrative duties like onboarding developers and throttling usage when necessary.
What benefits have you seen/are you expecting from your API program?
Charity Navigator is itself a charity. We expect that the API will not only expand our reach, thereby fulfilling our mission of helping donors make informed giving choices, but that it will help us generate income so we can continue to provide our services for free to donors and to the charities we rate.
What is your vision for your API?
We envision that as our API makes our data more accessible that we’ll be able to influence a greater portion of the $300 billion Americans donate annually thereby, ultimately, ensuring that the best charities have the money they need to carry out their worthy missions.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Don't Believe Everything You Read Online - Do Your Own Research

The following image is once again circulating on social media applications including facebook.

Much of the information is inaccurate and we encourage potential donors to double check our free charity ratings before making a decision to support or not to support one of these groups. Here's the real scoop on these groups:

  • Marsha Evans hasn't been the CEO of the American Red Cross since 2003. As shown on our site, the current CEO is Gail McGovern and her compensation for the Fiscal Year Ending 2012 was $591,122. Check our our CEO Compensation study for tips on determining if that is a reasonable level of pay for a CEO of a $3.3 billion charity.
  • During the March of Dimes' FYE 2011, it spent 65.9% of its budget on the programs and services it exists to provide (with 10.9% spent on administrative costs and 23.1% on fundraising costs). That's considerably more than the 10 cents the image above claims, but not especially efficient compared to the thousands of charities we rate - - - most of them spend at least 75% on programs/ services with the remaining 25% spent on admin and fundraising expenses.
  • The President & CEO of the United Way, Brian Gallagher, received a compensation of $763,394 in 2011 (the most recent year for which we have data). That year the chairty's total expenses were $90 million. As per our CEO Compensation Study, we found a median CEO salary of $285,753 for charities of that size ($50 - $100 million).
  • Caryl Stern, President & CEO, of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF received a compensation of $467,463 during 2011. During the charity's FYE 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, it spent 90.3% of its $491 million budget on programs/ services.
  • Goodwill Industries International's President & CEO is James Gibbons. His compensation for 2011 was $508,171. (We do not offer a rating for this nonprofit as it doesn't fit our criteria for evaluation. Specifically, the bulk of its contributions are government grants and not donations from the general public.)
  • We can't offer an evaluation of the Salvation Army because it is recognized as a church by the IRS and thus exempt from filing the Form 990. Without that document, we lack the necessary data to rate it.
  • We evaluate many chapters of Make-A-Wish and they've received a range of ratings from 1-star to 4-stars (our highest rating). None of them spend 100% on programs and services. That's simply not possible. Charities must reserve some money to fundraise and just like everybody else, they have to pay for mundane things like the electric bill.
  • For its FYE 2012, ALSAC - St. Jude Children's Research Hospital devoted 70% of its budget towards its programs/ services.
  • We rate 46 Ronald McDonald House chapters. Their ratings range from 2-star to 4-stars. Again, none of them spend 100% on programs / services.
  • Lions Clubs International Foundation spent 86.8% of its budget in FYE 2012 on its programs/ services.
  • For various reasons the following charities do not meet our criteria for evaluation so we can not providing a rating for them at this time: American Legion, Veterans of Foreign WarsDisabled American Veterans and Military Order of Purple Hearts. If you are interested in charities that Support the Troops, then see our list of such charities in theHot Topics section of our site.
Rather than pick charities based on something you've found in your social media stream, consider becoming a more proactive giver and take the time to find great charities doing the charitable work that is most important to you. Our advanced search tool will help you search our 7,000+ charity ratings to find the charity that best fits your philanthropic goals.

Giving Library to Kick Off $100,000 “Share to Give” Campaign on #GivingTuesday

The Giving Library, an online video archive of interviews with charity leaders, is one of our API partners. Specifically,  we've utilized their API to embed the videos they've produced into our site and they've utilized to embed our charity ratings data into their site.
our API

And on Dec 3, #GivingTuesday, the Giving Library is kicking off a $100,000 “Share to Give” campaign. To help your favorite charity earn some of that money, you need to follow these steps:

  1. Visit the Giving Library site and sign up for a free Library Card 
  2. Share your favorite charity's video on Facebook or Twitter
  3. For each share, the Giving Library will donate $5 to that charity. (You can share up to five organizations per month, and the Giving Library will donate up to $100,000 during the campaign.)

API Partner Spotlight: Truist

Charity Navigator is pleased to announce our data sharing partnership with Truist, the leading provider of corporate social responsibility and philanthropy services.

In addition to helping large companies manage their employee giving, matching, and volunteering programs, Truist has recently released InstaGive, the first peer to peer fundraising platform designed specifically for the needs of small and medium sized organizations. Alongside features such as social media integration and streamlined setup, InstaGive also conveniently provides the Charity Navigator rating of a nonprofit organization, via Charity Navigator's API, which allows donors to be more confident that their charitable contribution will be utilized to the fullest extent.

InstaGive is an innovative and affordable solution for nonprofits, small to medium sized businesses, and individuals to create customized microsites to accept credit card donations in support of their own cause-based charitable programs. The platform is secure, simple to use, and  provides donors with access to the same in-house processing and distribution infrastructure that Truist uses for their Fortune 500 clients to reliably and accurately distribute funds to their choice of nearly 1.1 million nonprofits. 

Visit http://InstaGive.Engages.me now to see how InstaGive can change the way your organization manages charitable giving campaigns.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Website Improvements!!!

In the continuous pursuit to create the ideal user experience, we have recently enhanced our website! The changes were prompted by users' feedback on the functionality of certain features. Here are some highlights:

Layout of Search Results

1) Adding a charity to your 'My Charities' list has never been easier. A larger 'Add to My Charities' button is now highly prominent to the left of the charity results that appear after a search. Clicking the button will activate a pop-up that allows you to select which list (if you have more than one), you would like to add that charity to.

2) The process for comparing 2 or more charities on the search results page is now more obvious. Users just need to select the box to the left of the 'Compare' link. Once 2 or more boxes are selected, clicking the 'Compare' link will provide a comparison of the selected charities.

3)The format of the description of the charities in the search results has been modified slightly to include: rating, tag line, location, category and cause.

Improvements to the rating pages

1) New and improved graphs which are easier to read

2) A larger 'Add to My Charities' button located in the upper left-hand section of page to make it easier to add an organization to your lists  

We would like to thank our users for all the feedback. We are continuously taking this feedback into account when evaluating how to enhance the website.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Tips to Make the Most of Year-End Donations

No matter how much or little you can afford to give this year, we offer our annual Holiday Giving Guide to help you give with confidence. The guide includes:
  • Top 5 Tips For Year-End Donations
  • List of Naughty and Nice Charities
  • List of the Top 10 Charities That Earn The Highest % of Donations at Year-End
  • Giving Facts  

Go To The Guide Now >>>

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Attention Board of Director members, potential members and all who are curious!!!

Nonprofit organizations are required to have a board of directors. The trouble is that it is hard to build a strong and sustainable board. Many organizations find themselves stuck with a mediocre one. 

It is for this reason that Colorado's Secretary of State Scott Gessler is promoting a five-part eLearning series entitled 'Board Education and Effectiveness.' The project is aimed at helping nonprofits train and strengthen their boards of directors."

If you are contemplating joining, are already involved or know someone that is, we urge you to pass this on, so that people have a better idea of what they are getting into and what their responsibilities are once they do.

You can access the “Fiduciary Duties of Nonprofit Directors” module at: http://www.sos.state.co.us/pubs/charities/boardTraining.html

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cash is King

As we always remind people after a disaster, sending supplies, if even possible, is not optimal. Although it can be less gratifying, making a cash donation is preferable. The following video, produced by InterAction, helps explain why cash is king in times of disaster.


Thursday, November 14, 2013

It's a bird, it's a plane...no, it's Charity Navigator!

We thank all our donors and users for their kind compliments. It is always heart warming to hear that our work is being used, appreciated and effective. Below is an inspiring note we just received:

On behalf of Charity Navigator, you are welcome and we shall!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Super Typhoon Haiyan Disaster Relief

Typhoon Haiyan, considered the most powerful storm to ever make landfall battered the Philippines with sustained winds close to 200 mph. The current death toll is feared to be over 10,000. The storm has caused mudslides, 30 feet high storm surges, as well as flash flooding. According to Philippine authorities, more than 12 million people are at risk due to the storm's powerful impact.

Visit our site for a list of charities responding and tips for how to ensure your donation makes a difference

Monday, November 11, 2013

Your Support Means the World to Us!

This is literally true because it means we can expand the universe of charities we rate. With your support, we will be able to continue our work on CN 3.0 by adding the critical third rating dimension of results reporting to our assessment. We will soon begin evaluating the impact charities are having on the people and communities they serve, whether it's around the corner or around the world. 

Read More  >>>

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New Hot Topics

Sharing Your Bounty: Providing Holiday Meals to the Less FortunateIf the holidays have inspired you to help the less fortunate, then review our tips on how to identify a well-run charity that provides holiday meals.

#GivingTuesday: A Day of Giving Back
GivingTuesday is a simple idea. All you need to do is find a way for your family, your community, your company or your organization to join in acts of giving. Then tell everyone you can about what you are doing and why it matters.
Superstorm Sandy: A Year Later
Hurricane Sandy hit the U.S. on October 29 2012, leaving millions without power, at least 100 dead and a tremendous amount of property damage. Learn which charities participated in the relief and recovery effort

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Friday, November 1, 2013