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, May 27, 2015

More on the Cancer Charity Scam

The Hard Line's Ed Berliner talks with Charity Navigator's Sandra Miniutti about the recent FTC lawsuit against four sham cancer charities. The short segment includes information for how donors can check out charities before they give.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How to Donate Safely

The way these charities operated is offensive to the generosity of donors and insulting to those stricken with cancer. Together, these charities siphoned $187 million out of the philanthropic marketplace. Just think what legitimate cancer charities could have accomplished with that money!

While the government’s actions in pursuing this case of charity fraud are commendable, donors are only slightly more protected today than they were yesterday. That’s because there are more than 1 million charities in America – far too many for our government to effectively police. Given this reality, the most powerful way for donors to protect themselves from fraudulent charities is to make sure they are armed with the data they need to make informed giving decisions.

So, just how does a donor stay protected? First and foremost, hang up the phone when for-profit telemarketers call on behalf of sick kids, veterans and other issues that evoke an altruistic response. Don’t be swayed by their attempts to tug at your heartstrings because if you give in, your donation primarily serves to enrich the telemarketing firm. Shockingly, because there are no laws governing how much of your donation a professional telemarketer can keep, just pennies on the dollar end up in the charity’s hands. Instead, be a proactive donor. Take the time to identify the causes that you are most passionate about supporting, research the charities in that field and once you find a great one, give to it directly.

Most importantly, don’t let this egregious story be a reason not to give. Our research into the financial and governance practices of more than 8,000 charities reveals that the vast majority of them are worthy of support. And with just a little investment of your time, you can be assured that your hard-earned money is going to legitimate charities and not fraudulent impostors.

For more tips, visit our website.

Originally published on May 21, 2015 in the New York Daily News.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Cancer Charities Bilked more than $187 Million from Donors

Today, in an unprecedented collaboration, the FTC and 58 law enforcement agencies put a web of sham cancer charities out of business. The investigation revealed that the four charities involved - Cancer Fund of America, Cancer Support Services, Children's Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society - primarily benefited one family, that of Cancer Fund founder James T. Reynolds Sr., rather than the cancer patients the organizations' purported to help. In total, these groups made off with $187 million in donations.

What can you do as a donor to ensure your charitable dollars aren't invested in fraudulent groups?

  1. Hang up the phone! Reynolds Sr. and his family were able to raise so much money in part by working with for-profit telemarketing firms. Those companies siphon off most of what you donate and only pass along small percentage of your gift to the charity.
  2. Be proactive. Don't wait for a charity to ask you for support. Instead flip the table and identify which causes you are most passionate about.
  3. Do your homework. Take the time to research the charity's finances, governance practices and results. You'll find much of this analysis, for free, at Charity Navigator.
  4. Make a long-term commitment. Once you've done your research, give generously and over the long haul. A great way to do that is by setting up a monthly donation to your favorite charity. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Find Out What 5th Graders Learned By Using Charity Navigator

Read the story about how one 5th grade teacher taught his students a range of skills just by using Charity Navigator's website. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

The NFL - No Longer Tax Exempt

You may be asking, "The National Football League was considered a Tax Exempt organization?" Well yes it was, up until now.  The NFL has voluntarily given up their 501 (C) (6) tax exempt status. 501 (C) (6) entities are different then the 501 (C) (3) charities you find rated on Charity Navigator's website.  501 (C) (6) status covers business leagues, chambers of commerce and other similar entities, such as professional sports leagues.  Income from their industry-promoting activities is exempt from federal taxation.

The move to relinquish this status has been explained by the league as a means to end distractions and misunderstandings about the tax status of the $10-billion a year organization.  Politicians and some others see it as an opportunity for other professional sports leagues to follow suit and to "return millions of dollars to the federal treasury."  It should be noted that NFL teams themselves are not tax exempt and do pay taxes on their earnings.  What this change truly means to incoming tax revenue is unclear, but one result is that the NFL will no longer have to disclose the salaries of league officers. Major League Baseball gave up its tax exempt status in 2007, but the PGA Tour and National Hockey League remain tax exempt.

Friday, May 8, 2015

This Summer Get Healthy! Generous! Happy!

Charity Footprints, a fitness tracking & fundraising app, is one of our API partners. The app uses Charity Navigator powered search engine to connect their users to worthy charities.

The mobile app allows users to set-up a fitness goal and dedicate their fitness miles to any charity in the US. This summer they are launching a “Healthy. Generous. Happy.” campaign, where teams (of up to 5 people - anywhere on the globe) will be able to compete, and earn donations for their favorite charity. 

To donate your fitness miles, follow these steps:

  • Download Charity Footprints iPhone App. 
  • Set up a fitness goal for your favorite charity.
  • Invite friends to the platform and get your team ready for the summer of health, generosity and happiness.
  • Get your favorite charities featured on the app here

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Help Baltimore Recover

Photo: Ted Van Pelt
After a period of extreme unrest following the funeral for Freddie Gray, an  African-American 25 year old man who died while in police custody, Baltimore is trying to recover. While curfews have been lifted, and stores are re-opening, it will take a long time for the City to recover from the events that unfolded over the past few weeks. 

Several local organizations are attempting to help in that effort. One of those responding is the Maryland Food Bank. It is assisting with emergency food supplies and is rated by Charity Navigator. You can see our evaluation for the Food Bank by clicking here.

Friday, May 1, 2015

May Charity Ratings Update

Our May 1st ratings release includes hundreds of updated ratings and some newly rated charities.

  • 4-star Alzheimer's Association
  • 4-star Direct Relief
  • 4-star Tiger Woods Foundation
  • 3-star American Red Cross
  • 3-star D.C. Central Kitchen
  • 2-star Heifer Project International
  • 1-star Coalition to Salute American's Heroes
  • 0-star National Vietnam Veterans Foundation
4 New Charities Rated for the first time including: 
  • 3-star David Lynch Foundation for consciousness-based education
  • 3-star New York Collaborates for Autism
  • 3-star Thrive St. Louis
  • 2-star Friends of United Hatzalah of Israel