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, July 31, 2013

Planting the Giving Seed in Children

"Children naturally look for ways to make a contribution and help others," says Deborah Spaide, founder of Kids Care Clubs, a national organization based in New Canaan, CT, that provides information on community-service projects for youngsters. "But just as we give our children opportunities to use their legs when they're learning to walk, we need to give them opportunities to exercise their charitable muscles so they become really good at giving too."

Here are a few ways to start:
1) Give in more ways than one: We tend to associate charitable giving with giving money, but encourage your children to experience charitable giving firsthand. This reinforces the concept and makes it easier to grasp.

2) Talk to your children about being charitable and selfless when opportunities present themselves in your daily lives, i.e. visiting someone in the hospital. Here is the story of how one mother educated her son's class.

3) Be a role model: If kids see you being charitable and helping out, they will too. 

Click here are a few more ideas.

The amazing thing is parents may get the biggest benefit due to the trickle off effect and the world will be better off for it!

If you are interested in learning more about this topic, you can in an article written on parenting.com.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Charity Navigator's 2012 Annual Report of Results


The Charity Navigator team is delighted to share with you Celebrating 10 Year of Rating Charities, our 2012 Annual Report documenting all that we were able to accomplish on your behalf. We also want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who made financial contributions last year, helping us to raise close to $1.2 million in public support from individuals and foundations.

Today, with more than 6,500 charities rated in 2 dimensions, development of CN 3.0 on track and the addition in March of our newest feature--a listing for each of the nearly 1.6 million nonprofits registered with the IRS, Charity Navigator is on target for accomplishing all of our major goals for 2013!  With ambitious plans going forward to get to 10,000 charities rated in 3 dimensions (CN 3.0) by the end of 2016, the support of each and every one of you is vitally needed and most deeply appreciated!

Thank you, All, for helping to make 2012 a banner year!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Be a Lifesaver

Most of us give around the year-end holidays when we are inspired by the religious season and/or we're thinking about the year-end cut off for our charitable deductions. But charities need your support year round. In fact, many charities struggle with cash flow in the summer as donations taper off.

Be a lifesaver and give your favorite charity a surprise donation this summer. And while you're at it, go ahead and set up monthly donations with our Giving Basket so that your favorite charities can count on you even when you are away enjoying your next vacation.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Intelligent Giving Friday Tip: Obtain Copies of a Charities Financial Records

Savvy donors know that the financial health of a charity is a strong indicator of the charity's programmatic performance. They know that in most cause areas, the most efficient charities spend 75% or more of their budget on their programs and services and less than 25% on fundraising and administrative fees. However, they also understand that mid-to-large sized charities do require a strong infrastructure therefore a claim of zero fundraising and/or administrative fees is unlikely at best. They understand that a charity's ability to sustain its programs over time is just as important as its short-term day-to-day spending practices. Therefore, savvy donors also seek out charities that are able to grow their revenue at least at the rate of inflation, that continue to invest in their programs and that have some money saved for a rainy day. All of this analysis is provided on Charity Navigator's website for free, but when considering groups not found here, savvy donors ask the charity for copies of its three most recent Forms 990. Not only can the donor examine the charity's finances, but the charity's willingness to send the documents is a good way to assess its commitment to transparency.

I wish you all a great weekend. Stay cool!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Total Giving Was >$316 Billion In 2012

Few people realize how large charities have become, how many vital services they provide, and how much funding flows through them each year. Without charities and non-profits, America would simply not be able to operate. Their operations are so big that during 2012, total giving was more than $316 billion.

How big is the sector?
  • Total charitable giving rose for the third straight year.
  • Total giving to charitable organizations was $316.23 billion in 2012 (about 2% of GDP). This is an increase of 3.5% from 2011.
  • As in previous years, the majority of that giving came from individuals. Specifically, individuals gave roughly $223 billion (72%) representing a 3.9% increase over 2011.
  • Giving by bequest was $22.14 billion (down a whopping 7%), foundations gave $47.44 billion (up 4.4%), and corporations donated $18.97 billion (up 12.2%).
  • Corporate giving accounts for just 6% of the total giving in 2012 which is actually a 12.2% increase from 2011.
  • Most types of charities saw increases in donations. The two exceptions were Religion and Foundations. Arts, Environment and Animal organizations saw the largest increase which indicates that donors may be returning to their personal giving priorities (which they strayed from during the height of the recession in favor of supporting Food Banks and other Human Services charities).
  • Historically, Religious groups have received the largest share of charitable donations. While this is still true in 2012, the percentage dropped by 2% from 2011.
  • Even with the decrease in donations, 32% of all donations went to Religious organizations. Much of these contributions can be attributed to people giving to their local place of worship. The next largest sector was Education with 13% of all donations.
  • Billionaire donors are starting to give at rates not seen since the beginning of the economic downturn.
  • Revised Giving USA data shows that total giving as a percentage of GDP has barely strayed from 2% over the past four decades despite the huge growth in the number of charities. This figure climbed to a high of 2.3% in 2000, but otherwise tends to gravitate to 2% of GDP.
  • Total giving in 2012 was 8.2% below giving in 2007, before the charitable sector felt the effects of the recession. If the pace of growth in charitable giving stays constant in the coming years, giving will not rebound to pre-recession levels until 2018.

All data is the property of Giving USA 2013, the Annual Report on Philanthropy. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

Intelligent Giving Tip Friday: Check The Charity's Commitment To Accountability & Transparency

Check The Charity's Commitment To Accountability & Transparency

In 2011, Charity Navigator added an Accountability & Transparency dimension to its rating system. It tracks metrics such as whether the charity used an objective process to determine their CEO’s salary, whether it has an effective governance structure, and whether it has a whistleblower policy. This data is critical because charities that follow good governance and transparency practices are less likely to engage in unethical or irresponsible activities. So, the risk that such charities would misuse donations is lower than for charities that don't adopt such practices.

Have a great see-through weekend!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Charities Rated by Charity Navigator can sign up an Official Rep

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!  
  1. First become a regular registered user on the site.
  2. Log in.
  3. Go to your charity's rating page on the Charity Navigator site.
  4. Access the registered rep application by following the instructions in the "Charity Login" section at the bottom of your charity's rating page. 
  5. 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.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Intelligent Giving Friday Tip: Confirm 501(c)(3) Status

Confirm 501(c) (3) Status

Wise donors don't drop money into canisters at the checkout counter or hand over cash to solicitors outside the supermarket. Situations like these are irresistible to scam artists who wish to take advantage of your goodwill. Smart givers only support groups granted tax-exempt status under section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. All of the charities evaluated by Charity Navigator meet this basic requirement.

Once again, happy 4th of July and enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Celebrate the 4th by Supporting Our Troops

After the grilled hot dogs and the fireworks this 4th of July holiday, you may take a moment to reflect on all the men and women who have given their lives defending our country and considered ways in which you could honor their sacrifice. And with America engaged in military action in the Middle East in recent years, you may even think about how you could provide assistance to injured soldiers and their families. Sadly, there are many "charities" that will use your compassion for veterans to coax you into supporting their inefficient, if not fraudulent, operations. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't give! To help you give with confidence to military and veteran-related charities this 4th of July, our site includes a hot topic which highlight the highest and lowest-rated of these charities.

Monday, July 1, 2013

July Updates and Additions

July Updates and Additions

Summer is in full swing and after a beautiful weekend, we have updated the site today with 101 newly added charity ratings and 600 charities with updated ratings. 

Some interesting additions are:

Check out all the additions here.

Charities "on the move":

Moving Up

Check out all movers here.

Moving Down

America's History of Philanthropy

As we celebrate Independence Day this week, we thought it would be fun to take a look back at America's charitable history. Here are a few highlights:  
  • 1643 - The first account of a fundraising drive in America is organized by Harvard University. It raised 500 pounds.
  • 1913 - Congress passes the Revenue Act of 1913 exempting charities from paying federal income tax.
  • 1917-Thanks to the Revenue Act of 1917, taxpayers can deduct their charitable contributions off their federal income taxes.
  • 1941 - The Form 990 was filed for the first time for tax years ending n 1941. The original 990 required nonprofits to answer several yes/now questions, provide an income statement and balance sheet. It was only two pages long.
  • 1962 - Individuals gave a total of $9.89 billion to charity, far surpassing donations by foundations ($700 million) and corporations ($540 million).
  • 1964 - Although giving in the Federal workplace goes as far back as the
    1940s, it wasn’t until in 1961 that President John F. Kennedy authorized the creation of a formal fundraising program. Launched in 1964, the first Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) raised $12.9 million.
  • August 29, 2005 - Hurricane Katrina devastates the gulf coast and philanthropists respond by giving $6.5 billion. The pace and level of giving was unprecedented, breaking all previous records of disaster-related giving.
  • April 2013 - Charity Navigator , the nation's largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities, turned 11!
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.