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, April 29, 2013

We Present...Our DAF Widget

Donor-advised funds (DAFs) are charitable giving programs that allow you to combine some of the most favorable tax benefits with the flexibility to support your favorite causes. Simplicity combined with tax benefits!

Contributions to donor-advised funds qualify immediately for maximum tax benefits and the contribution does not need to be distributed within the year to qualify. Flexibility and growth potential! Contributions that sit in the fund grow tax free to support more giving in the future.
DAFs can be a simple way to gift appreciated assets. Many of these funds accept a variety of these gifts and provide all relevant tax benefits. They can simplify the process and deal with the paperwork.

There are typically minimum contribution amounts required however. For example, Fidelity Charitable Giving Account has a minimum contribution of $5,000.

By the way, Charity Navigator now has a DAF widget on oursite. Fidelity built the widget and Schwab DAF is the other participating fund. You can now recommend different organizations directly from our site via the widget (picture below) if you use one of these funds! Also, please remember that CN is a charity too and this is a great way to support us as well!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Thank You Volunteers!

The nonprofit sector would be at a total loss without all the great people who are able, willing and do give some of their time to help great social causes. According to the Corporation for National Community Service, Americans volunteered 7.9 billion hours in 2011. That is amazing! I don’t even want to imagine where the sector would be without all these incredibly generous people.

This year, National Volunteer Week is from April 21st - April 27th.  It is a chance to celebrate all volunteers. It is also a good opportunity to consider with who and how to volunteer your time. Here are some tips:
  • Volunteer doing something you enjoy
  • Volunteer with an organization and project working towards a goal you feel strongly about
  • Quantify and qualify what you can offer – know and share what and how much you can and want to volunteer
  • Make a commitment – and stick with it!
For more tips, see our site.

In light of recent events, I would like to give special shout-outs to the volunteers that stepped forward in Boston and West Texas. 

There is currently still need for volunteers in West Texas. Those interested should contact Samaritan's Purse. Here is a link you can follow for more info: http://spvolunteernetwork.org/projects/west-tx-explosion-response.aspx

Thank you to all volunteers! We appreciate your contributions!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

How to Give and Not get Scammed

Planning to make a donation to support the victims of the Boston marathon bombing? Before you do, watch this video of our President & CEO, Ken Berger, on Fox Business News. The short video includes important  advice for how to make sure your money gets to the victims.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Spring Cleaning

“One person’s trash can be another person’s treasure.”

That set of used cutlery that you don’t know what to do with, those clothes that are just taking space in your closet, that relic of a TV (you mean they weren't always flat?) collecting dust in a corner. Yep, it is that time of year again…spring! And with it comes a yearly ritual for many…cleaning.

While you may not know what to do with certain items you own, many charitable organizations could put them to good use and help those in need. Not only does this help you create more space in your home by donating these things that you aren't using, you also get to benefit from tax deductions. Why not get an early start this year and save some money on your 2013 tax return!

Our site can serve as a valuable tool to find charities that accept these in-kind donations.

Also, here is Charity Navigator’s Guide To Donating Noncash Items. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Another Fund for Helping the Boston Marathon Bombing Victims

The four time 4-star Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund has created the Boston Marathon Relief Fund. Money raised will directly assist the victims. Visit the America's Fund website (a program of the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund) to support this effort.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston Marathon Bombing Victims Funds

There are several movements afoot to collect funds in relation to the Boston Marathon Bombing. None of them, so far, are in connection with charities that have received high ratings from Charity Navigator. We list them here, with the information we have been able to obtain about each, to help inform potential donors. However, we caution that gifts to these funds carry more risk than gifts to a well-established, fully vetted charity.
  • TUGG
  • The One Fund
    • This fundraising effort was established on April 16th by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino “to help the people most affected by the tragic events that occurred in Boston on April 15, 2013.”
    • The group has applied for nonprofit status, but does not yet have it.  The notice about the fund’s creation does properly note that “although the Fund cannot guarantee that the IRS will make a determination that the organization qualifies as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt entity, if approval is received within the expected time frame, the determination will be retroactive to the date of the Fund’s formation.” Readers of this blog know that the IRS hands out nonprofit status like it is giving away candy so it is highly likely that the fund’s nonprofit status will be approved.
    • We’ve seen similar efforts after other disasters, including Superstorm Sandy in which the Governor of NJ and his wife started a fund. At the time, it too did not have nonprofit status (it does now). It has been the subject of some criticism – which Governor Christie has responded to.
    • We generally recommend that donors not support brand new charities in a time of crisis, but we recognize that many donors will want to support this fund. Hopefully, the caliber of the leaders who have created the fund, in combination with the media scrutiny it is sure to receive, will help ensure that the fund does as it promises it will do.
And to recap yesterday’s blog, here are some things to keep in mind in your efforts to support a Boston Marathon Bombing related fund:

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Boston Bombing – How to Help?

After the violent act yesterday by one (or a few) terrible people, I’m heartened to see how so many people at the site of the bombing risked their own lives to help the victims and how millions more today are asking themselves “how can I help?”  Right now, we are not aware that any charities, rated by us, have set up funds specific to this tragedy. But our team of analysts is following the evolving situation and if we identify any, we will be sure to promptly post that information here and on our website.

That said, you may hear of specific appeals for help. Remember that there is no shortage of criminals that will be tempted to take advantage of your generosity. We’ve already seen reports  that 100s of Boston-related website URLs have been purchased since the bombing. This is similar to what we saw after Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti Earthquake, Superstorm Sandy and other disasters when criminals set up sites that stole well-meaning donors’ money and personal identities. Be sure to review our tips for giving in a crisis before you many any donations in the coming days.

Once legitimate charities establish funds, be sure to still do your homework. Find out exactly how they plan to use your donation. And hold them accountable for spending your money as promised and in a timely manner. As we've seen with previous victim’s funds, it can be a very long time from when they’re established until the victims receive assistance.

Finally, you may also want to consider other ways to help such as donating blood, signing up to get trained as a disaster volunteer, or volunteer in your time or donating to a charity in your local community

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Make a Donation with that Snack

I came across this vending machine the other day and was surprised to see that a portion of the purchase of each snack would benefit the 4-star charity, Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research
Have you ever seen a charitable vending machine? 
If so, did you buy something because of the charitable component or did it just make you feel better about the purchase you had already planned to make?

Monday, April 8, 2013

In Case You Missed It...

Last week, Charity Navigator was featured in a story by ESPN's Outside the Lines' reporter, Paula Lavigne. The story took a closer look at 100+ charities established by high-profile athletes and found that most of the charities don't measure up. Below is a clip from the segment  A corresponding article is accessible here.