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.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Find Charities that Support our Troops!

Many Americans wish to support our veterans by donating to a charity serving them. With so many charities engaged in serving veterans, it can be a bit overwhelming trying to find an organization you can trust to spend your money wisely.

To make this task easier for you, we’ve curated a list of charities that support soldiers and their families. These organizations provide various services, from financial assistance, to housing, to lifting troops’ morale.  Before donating to one of these charities, be sure to check on the organizations financial health and transparency practices!

View our list of military and veteran’s charities here.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Charitable Celebrities: Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio received a Crystal award at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland for his environmental work. DiCaprio used this platform to address global leaders, calling for their immediate attention to the climate crisis. Most remarkable, though, is that DiCaprio announced that his foundation, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, would be donating $15 million to approximately 30 organizations that work to conserve the environment. Many of the charities the foundation will be donating to are rated by us!

 Amazon Watch is a three star charity that works to protect the rain forest and advance the rights of indigenous peoples in the Amazon Basin. Conservation International is a four star charity that applies innovations in science, economics, and policy to protect the environment, demonstrating that we can live harmoniously with nature. International Fund for Animal Welfare, a three star charity, saves animals threatened by poachers, hunts, habitat loss, and conflict with people. World Wildlife Fund will also benefit from the announced donation. This three star charity is committed to reversing the degradation of our planet’s natural environment and to a building a future in which human needs are met on harmony with nature.

Philanthropic celebrities are definitely everywhere. Celebrity support helps to increase awareness of various causes and generate more donations and support. If you’re interested in charities working with celebrities, check out our Top 10 List of Celebrity-Related Charities!

The Flint Water Crisis: How can you help?

Since April 2014, the residents of Flint, MI have been immersed in a very serious and frightening crisis. Amid a financial emergency, city officials decided to switch the city's main water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. From the start, this river had been known for its filth. Shortly after the change, residents began noticing a terrible odor, look and smell to their drinking water. It turns out, researchers determined the water to be highly corrosive and dangerous. There have been proven elevated levels of lead in the water. Unfortunately, many children have been affected by the lead tainted water and that exposure has irreversible effects for the long term.

Luckily, there is one major charity that is directly helping to aid the city of Flint during this time of need. The Food Bank of Eastern Michigan is now accepting donations that will go directly towards supporting residents of Flint, whether it be with bottled water, water filters or replacement filters. As always, perform your due diligence before donating to any given charity. Here at Charity Navigator, we want donors to be well informed of where to turn to during any time of crisis. We wish the residents of Flint well and can only hope a solution is found as soon as possible.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service


Taking from the page of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The time is always right to do what is right.” Instead of treating today as a day off, treat it as a day on! The MLK Day of Service is a time to work together towards Dr. King’s dream of a stronger, more united America. You can use of our website to find a local charity to volunteer with or donate to today.
If you’re looking for a charity whose work honors Dr. King’s vision, Charity Navigator has you covered. The Southern Center for Human Rights, based in Dr. King’s hometown, works to enforce the civil and human rights of people in the criminal justice system in the South. The Alliance for Children’s Rights is dedicated solely to protecting the rights of impoverished, abused, and neglected children. SOME (So Others Might Eat) helps break the cycle of homelessness by offering services, such as affordable housing, job training, addiction treatment, and counseling, to the poor, the elderly and individuals with mental illness. Jobs with Justice works to improve working people's standard of living, fights for job security, and protects workers' right to organize.
The above are just a small sampling of the variety of charities you can engage with to honor Dr. King’s legacy. If you’ve decide to volunteer today, be sure to read through our Guide to Volunteering to help you chose where to dedicate your time!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Talent Lost Too Soon

Sadly, we have lost two incredibly talented men early on in this new year. On January 10, beloved singer, songwriter and complete innovator, David Bowie had lost his eighteen month battle with liver cancer at the age of 69. He was surrounded by loved ones in his New York City home. At just 22, Bowie landed his first hit song “Space Oddity” that landed in the top five of the U.K. Singles Chart. Throughout the 1970’s-80’s, Bowie became known for pushing creative boundaries in the industry. Just days before his death, he released his final album, Blackstar on his 69th birthday. His music was a gift to us all.

Tragically, we have lost another great talent. On January 14, also at the young age of 69, actor Alan Rickman had died after his long battle with cancer. He was best known for his roles in Harry Potter, Die Hard and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Although Rickman was infamous for his roles in the Harry Potter films, he was a true man of theatre. He has written his own plays, as well as directed. He too, will be truly missed.

Two tragic losses in such a short amount of time, all due to cancer. If you are thinking about donating to cancer charities on behalf of a loved one or just because you have a passion for wanting to see the disease wiped out, please do your research first. Here at Charity Navigator, you can find multiple four and three star charities working to end the fight against cancer.

IRA Charitable Rollover Is Now Permanent

 [Photo credit: Lending Memo]
Last month, President Obama signed the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015 into law. Included in this package of changes to tax code is a permanent inclusion of IRS Charitable Rollover. This giving incentive was allowed to expire in 2008, and has since been renewed temporarily five times; it most recently expired on January 1st, 2015, leading to uncertainty for its status in 2016 and beyond.

The IRA Charitable Rollover allows individuals who are 70 1/2 years old to donate up to $100,000 to charitable organizations directly from their IRA, without that donation being counted as taxable income when it is withdrawn. To qualify, contributions must come from a traditional IRA or Roth IRA, and they must be made directly to a public charity. Additionally, the donor may not receive goods or services in exchange for the donation, and they must retain a receipt from each charity to which a donation is made.

Giving incentives such as the IRA Charitable Rollover have a tremendous impact on the social sector. According to Independent Sector, the provision led to more than $140 million in gifts during its first two years.  Because it is available to taxpayers whether or not they itemize their tax returns, the rollover helps older Americans, who are more likely not to file itemized returns. Extending this charitable provision permanently provides needed clarity in the tax code and allows for Americans to make giving decisions without wondering whether the provision will continue to exist.

Monday, January 11, 2016

5 Tips for Giving in 2016

1. First, determine which causes you’ll be supporting in 2016.

2. Next, use Charity Navigator to select a small group of charities that are financially healthy and transparent.

3. Then, look at the charity’s programs to determine whether or not they engage in the type of work you would like to support. Check on the charity's results by calling them or visiting their website.

4. Map out a plan and budget for the year (consider setting aside some money for disaster giving), then let the organization(s) know your intentions. Knowing your plan helps the charity keep its fundraising expenses at a minimum while focusing on the programs you intend to support.

5. Use Charity Navigator’s Giving Basket to keep all of your donations in one place. Through the Giving Basket, you can donate one time or on a recurring basis. Recurring donations can easily be modified on our website. At the end of the year, you’ll get one report detailing all of your charitable donations, making tax season that much simpler.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Americans Donate More to Less Fatal Diseases

It is evident that Americans are donating considerably more to diseases that kill us less frequently. Not surprisingly, Breast Cancer receives $257 million in donations, the highest amount, but 41,374 deaths were reported. Conversely, heart disease, which claims over half a million American lives, receives a disproportionate $54 million dollars in donations.

What does this mean? It’s hard to point to one explanation. Perhaps Americans are thinking about diseases that affect the world’s population as opposed to just Americans, which would speak to why HIV received $14 million in donations from Americans, while taking 7,683 American lives. Maybe American donors are swayed by high profile campaigns, like the ALS ice bucket challenge, which raised $22.9 million dollars. Americans may be considering the amount of individuals affected by these diseases, as opposed to focusing on fatality rates. There’s a host of other factors that can explain why we donate to the disease-related charities that we do.

When making these donations, it’s key to consider the impact your donation will have.  Some charities are more efficient in terms of program spending then others. Some focus on treatment and others focus on research. Before donating, decide both what kind of program you want to support and which organization will have the greatest impact.

Check out our Top 10 Best Practices of Savvy Donors for help determining where to donate.