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.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Charities with an International Focus – Yes We’ve Got Those!

Image via BigStock Photos
It is true that we only evaluate charities based in the United States, registered with the IRS and that have 501 c (3) public charity status. 

However, just because a charity is registered in the US doesn't mean that it can’t work overseas. In fact, we have a whole category of international charities. It contains more than 550 charities that work throughout the world to defend human rights, to promote peace and understanding among all nations, and to provide relief and development services

And we have nearly 1,000 charities on our site whose scope of work is international. Those charities cut across all of our 9 categories of charities – from Animals to Religion

If you can't find an international charity that matches your philanthropic interests via one of those lists, then check out our interactive world map. It will help you to identify which 4-star charities are working in specific countries around the world.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Social Media: Don't Believe Everything You Read

We've been informed the the above image is 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 2011 was $501,122. Check our our CEO Compensation study for tips on determining if that is a reasonable level of pay for a CEO of a $3.4 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 $559,257 during the charity's FYE 2010.
  • Caryl Stern, President & CEO, of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF received a compensation of $454,855 during the charity's FYE 2011 and the charity spent 90.5% of its budget that year on programs/ services.
  • Goodwill Industries International's President & CEO is James Gibbons. His compensation for FYE 2010 was $463,041. (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 2011, ALSAC - St. Jude Children's Research Hospital devoted 70.3% of its budget towards its programs/ services.
  • We rate 40 Ronald McDonald House chapters. Their ratings range from 1-star to 4-stars. Again, none of them spend 100% on programs / services.
  • Lions Clubs International Foundation spent 83.9% of its budget in FYE 2011 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 Wars, Disabled 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 the Hot 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 6,000+ charity ratings to find the charity that best fits your philanthropic goals.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Sad Reminder

After disasters, we always recommend that donors steer clear of newly formed organizations. In fact, avoiding fly-by-night groups is our #1 tip! But in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, some well meaning donors neglected this piece of advice and gave to the Hurricane Sandy Relief Foundation. Turns out, this group wasn’t even a registered charity! And the couple behind it has used some of the >$600,000 in donations they received from nearly 2,000 donors to pay for their own credit card debt and other personal expenses.

Thankfully, these scammers were caught and the NJ’s Attorney General and the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs has filed suit against them. But this is a clear example why donors shouldn't throw their support behind new charities that pop up after a crisis. Instead, go with established charities that provide the public with a clear description of how they’ll participate in the relief and recovery efforts. Our list of vetted charities responding to Superstorm Sandy can be found in our Hot Topics.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

On yesterday’s blog post, we asked if you could answer some of the frequently asked questions we get at Charity Navigator. Here are the answers.
  1. Does Charity Navigator charge charities to be rated?
    Nope. Not one cent.
    We have never charged charities to be evaluated, ensuring that you can trust the data we deliver. Furthermore, for those charities that receive our highest rating, we have never charged them a fee to access and use our 4-star logos.
  1. Where do you look on a charity’s ratings page to find out how much the charity spends on its programs/ services?
    Each of our charity ratings pages displays the amount the charity spends on its programs/ services. Check our previous blog on this topic to better understand how to find this information.

  2. How can I add a charity to ‘My Charities?’
    Once you log into the site, you can add charities directly from the search results (click on the “Add to My Charities” link underneath the charity’s listing in the results) or on a specific charity’s ratings page (click on the “Add to My Charities” link in the left-hand column under the ‘Donate Now’ and ‘Write a Review’ buttons).
  1. Is Charity Navigator taking requests to rate new charities?
    At this moment, we are unable to accept suggestions from donors or from the charities themselves. Later this year, we plan to add a tool that will allow registered users of the site (registration is free) to suggest that we rate specific charities.

  2. How can I find a list of charities that Support the Troops?
    In the Hot Topics section of our site, you’ll find lists of charities that pertain to current events, such as those that Support the Troops. You can also use our Advanced Search Tool to quickly identify charities that match your philanthropic passion.
You can find answers to other FAQs for Donors and for Charities on our site. The recording of our webinar also provides guidance on using our site.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Can You Answer These Questions?

  • Does Charity Navigator charge charities to be rated?
  • Where do you look on a charity’s ratings page to find out how much the charity spends on its programs/ services?
  • How can I add a charity to ‘My Charities?’
  • Is Charity Navigator taking requests to rate new charities?
  • How can I find a list of charities that Support the Troops?

Stop by this blog tomorrow for the answers or look them up for yourself on our site here and here.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Inside Story: New Charity Navigator Team Member Talks

When one first joins a new team, there is a learning curve that one goes through. My name is Steven Caron and I am the Communications and Development Associate at Charity Navigator (CN), a title I have now held for only 2 weeks. I am on that learning curve and will share some of my observations thus far. I arrived at Charity Navigator through Atlas Corps, a fellowship program that brings fellows from around the world to serve in American nonprofit organizations. I am from Montreal, Quebec and have been in the non-profit for a few years now. The fellowship is a 1 to 1.5 year program.

At the start of my service at Charity Navigator, the most important task has been to understand how the organization operates, thinks and breathes. These are the building blocks from which my future work, progress and achievements will spring. It is for this reason that my first week has been spent, primarily, meeting with members of the management team. Each of them briefed and oriented me on their responsibilities within the organization, how they conduct their business and how I can get involved.

This blog is a summary of what I have learned and understood during this initial time period, particularly about why the organization was created and what it is setting out to accomplish. Since I am new to this as well, I figure my explanation should be a good overview of Charity Navigator and an introduction for people who don’t know much about this forward thinking and overachieving organization.

Firstly, one may want to know, why Charity Navigator was started in the first place. The answer is quite logical actually. As explained in their own words in this video, around the year 2000, the founders, Pat and Marion Dugan, were looking to donate a considerable amount of money. However, they didn’t want to hand over their gift to an organization that was either fraudulent or not effective with their funds. Through their research they came to the realization that an objective, unbiased charity rating service didn’t exist. Disappointed, Mr. and Mrs. Dugan decided donors needed an easy way to access information about how to donate their funds to create the most value for society. And thus, Charity Navigator was born with the mission to guide intelligent giving.
If you are new to Charity Navigator like me, I find it helpful to think of it as a tool you might use in the for-profit world to determine where you’ll get the best financial return on your money. The one major difference is that Charity Navigator helps donors invest their funds to get the best SOCIAL return on their money. We call this social investing instead of donating.
Ultimately, if donors are better educated, they will presumably allocate funds to the more efficient and effective charities. This means that less efficient/ effective charities will become starved for funds and disappear, thereby making more funding available to the charities that bring about the most social benefits.

To achieve this goal, Charity Navigator rates and provides information on, at the moment 6,000+ charities. The goal is to reach 10,000 charities over the next few years. And, in the meantime, Charity Navigator plans to provide basic information for all, roughly 1.35 million nonprofits that currently exist in America (although a portion of these charities provide services in almost every country on the planet).

Furthermore, in accordance with its core values, CN is constantly working on revamping and improving their ratings. For this reason, even though CN recently unveiled its new CN 2.0 rating system, it is already working on (and has begun to post information about) the “Results Reporting” element that would complete CN 3.0.

All that being said, the goal at Charity Navigator is to provide a guide for donors to become social investors, meaning donors who allocate their money where it will create the most value.  I look forward to being a part of this organization’s work over at least the next year and serving to impact social investing in the ultimate goal of increasing social value.

I would love to hear from our readers as to what you would like to see, moving forward, on this blog, so please send me your suggestions to scaron@charitynavigator.org. Thanks!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

And the Heaviest Hitter is...

In the last post, we asked: "Who was this year’s biggest donor?"

Well, the answer is...drum roll please…Warren Buffett who donated $3.1 billion to a few different non-profit organizations including his very own Howard G. Buffett Foundation, NoVo Foundation and the Sherwood Foundation.
In second place, is a little known couple, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, who gave just under half a million dollars.

Any comments, questions or interesting facts are always welcome.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

2012 Philanthropic Heavy Hitters

The Chronicle of Philanthropy recently published their infamous The 50 most generous Donors of the year list for 2012. Last year, this group of generous donors gave a combined $7.4 billion. The trend in this year’s list seems to be to support Colleges and Universities with 48% of this year’s top 50 donors giving the majority of their donations to this cause. Compare that to the next major cause, Health, which only receives from 15% of the top 50, and it is interesting to note the emphasis on higher education.

As seems to be commonplace and recurring, these donors gave substantial gifts to their own foundations. However, below is a list of sizeable gifts made to non-profit organization rated by Charity Navigator:

Donor(s)                                                          Organization
Irwin and Joan Jacobs                                       Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego
John and Penny Paulson                                    Central Park Conservancy
David Koch                                                      Metropolitan Museum of Art
Vance Kondon, Elisabeth Giesberger                Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego
Brooke Astor                                                   New York Community Trust
Fred Fields                                                       The Oregon Community Foundation
Garthe and Grace Brown                                  The Oregon Community Foundation
Wayne and Delores Barr Weaver                      The Community Foundation in Jacksonville
Mortimer Zuckerman                                         Columbia University
Carl Icahn                                                         Mount Sinai School of Medicine
James Spilker Jr., Anna Marie Spilker                  Stanford University (Engineering)
Joseph and Katherine O’Donnell                        Harvard University
Phil and Penelope Knight                                   Oregon Health & Science University Foundation
Eugene Lang                                                      Swarthmore College
George Roberts                                                 Claremont McKenna College
Ronald Perelman                                               University of Pennsylvania
Leon and Debra Black                                      Dartmouth University
David Rubenstein                                              Duke University
Michael and Marilyn Quinlan                             Loyola University Chicago (Business)
Richard Driehaus                                              DePaul University
Ethel Strong Allen                                             Hackley School

It is nice to see people giving back! To non-profits that are well rated at that!

For the fun of it, here is a good trivia question:

Who was this year’s biggest donor?

I’ll post the answer on this blog tomorrow. Check back here soon!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Tax Prep: How To Access Your Giving History

Apparently lots of Charity Navigator users are starting to work on their taxes as we're getting questions from donors as to how they can download a report of their 2012 giving history.

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 2012 through our site, then you’ll simply need to visit Network for Good and log in to your account to access your giving records.