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, July 29, 2016

Happy Reading!

Who doesn't love a good summer book that's not only enjoyable, but that is informative?  

If you are like me and you work in the nonprofit field, then you might be interested in the books we at Charity Navigator have read and recommend. And if you do get the chance to read one this summer, leave us a comment here and tell us what you thought of it.

Ice Bucket Challenge Leads to Research Breakthrough

In the summer of 2014, a remarkable viral campaign called the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge swept across the United States, leaving in its wake both a nation of cold, soaked people and a massive infusion of cash into the ALS Association and other ALS-focused research organizations.

Last year, we asked these organizations to report on the progress they'd made in searching for a cure, and shortly thereafter, the Washington Post reported a research breakthrough at Johns Hopkins University. Researchers responsible for the breakthrough credited the Ice Bucket Challenge money for allowing them to pursue a "high risk, high reward" strategy that led to the breakthrough.

On Wednesday, The ALS Association posted a press release reporting another crucial breakthrough in the fight against ALS. Researchers from Project MinE published a study isolating one of the genes responsible for inherited ALS, which will allow for further study into targeted gene therapy to treat the disease. About 10% of ALS cases are directly genetically based, and scientists consider it very likely they the percentage of cases indirectly linked to genetics is much higher, meaning this research could have far-reaching consequences for the fight to treat and cure ALS.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Tuesday's Giving Tip: Investigate the Charity's Outcomes

Take the time to learn about a charity’s accomplishments, goals and challenges by reviewing its website and/or talking with its staff. They should be able to tell you about the quality and depth of their results as well as their capacity to continue to get these results, not just the number of activities or people served. This is critical step, after all, the charity’s ability to bring about long lasting and meaningful change in the lives of people and communities should be the key reason for your financial investment.

For more help, read our suggested questions to ask charities.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

What Inspires You To Give?

Our Pinterest Board is full of quotes that inspire people to give back. 

But we want to know, what inspires you?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tuesday's Giving Tip: Find a Charity that Matches Your Philanthropic Passion!

At least one million charities exist in this country.  Don’t settle for an organization that isn’t an exact match for your beliefs, ideals, and goals.  No matter what you want to support — whether it be assisting veterans, cleaning up your town’s rivers, helping Syrian refugees, or spaying feral cats in Kansas — there’s a charity out there that matches your intentions. Take the time to find it.  Don’t settle for large, brand-name, multi-purpose organizations that have a small component with which you identify. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

A Note About Becoming a 4-Star Charity

"I would like to thank your organization and team for all of the help that you have provided to me and many others in the field of charitable giving. Charity Navigator is an invaluable resource and place of support.

Thank you for helping us taking all the steps necessary to present properly the important work of the IAJF and our board members who volunteer their time, energy and resources without compensation into supporting our mission.

 After much collaboration and guidance from the Charity Navigator staff, it fills me with pride to see our organization presented with a 4-star charity ranking. This accomplishment represents the hard work of both our organizations. Thank you for all your support in achieving this respected and deserving score." ~ Joshua Lahijani, Director of Development and Young Leadership, Iranian American Jewish Federation of New York

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Today is Prime Day – Support us when you spend with AmazonSmile!

July 12th is Prime Day, which means exclusive deals for Amazon Prime members. Why not support Charity Navigator while you save? AmazonSmile allows you to do exactly that. Just select Charity Navigator as your charity, and we will receive 0.5% of your purchase - at no additional cost to you! 

Charity Navigator is a 501 (c) (3) public charity, dedicated to guiding intelligent giving. Through the support of generous donors, we are able to help people identify charities that they can trust and support. 

A Tragic Week

The first week of July 2016 was tragically violent. Two black men, Alton B. Sterling and Philando Castile, lost their lives at the hands of police officers. Soon after, five Dallas police officers were killed in an attack. While there are currently no rated charities with focused efforts for Alton B. Sterling, Philando Castile, or the Dallas Police Department, there are a number of funds that have been organized to support the families of those we have lost.

Planting Peace, an international nonprofit which is currently unrated, is raising money for Philando Castile’s family here.

The Advancement Project, a four star organization, helps organized communities of color dismantle and reform the unjust and inequitable policies that undermine the promise of democracy. The Concerns of Police Survivors provides resources to assist in the rebuilding of the lives of surviving families of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty as determined by Federal criteria. These charities, while not specifically working with the families of the victims, do have missions aligned with the concerns at hand.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Charities with National Offices and Chapters: How Are They Rated?

Users of our site often ask us, "is the rating provided for a charity located in one state applicable to the charity's operations in other states?" And our answer is "it depends on how the charity files its financial information with the IRS."
For example, we evaluate the American Red Cross based on its Form 990 which includes data from all of its US chapters. Therefore, our evaluation reflects the financial health of this charity's entire operations including its national office and all of its chapters.
Some well-known charities, like the American Lung Association, are actually legally considered a group of separately incorporated organizations. Each of those organizations files a separate Form 990, and we evaluate each of them separately, rather than evaluating them as if they were a single organization. 

In some cases, we've been able to work with the charity's leadership to obtain consolidated data in order to provide our users with a single rating that shows the financial health of the entire organization. One example of a consolidated rating is Susan G. Komen for the Cure. As noted at the bottom of that organization's rating page, our analysis includes a review of both the national organization (EIN# 75-1835298) and its chapters (EIN# 75-2462834). 

Friday, July 8, 2016

How To Report Charity Fraud

If you suspect that a charity is engaged in unethical or unlawful activity, then we encourage you to report that information to the government authorities that are responsible for regulating nonprofits and to our CN Advisory Issuance Committee. 

Federal Level

At the federal level, nonprofit regulation resides in the hands of the IRS. The IRS website offers instructions for filing a complaint about a nonprofit by either:
State Level
At the state level, nonprofit regulation is the responsibility of the Attorney General or the Secretary of State. The National Association of State Charity Officials’ website provides links to many of the state offices that regulate charities.

Charity Navigator
We have a Committee that regularly reviews concerns about real and fake charities to determine if they belong on our CN Advisory list. You can submit issues about particular groups to the Committee by email. Please be prepared to provide credible, objective evidence to substantiate your concerns.

In addition, each rated charity on our site has a 'comment' tab where you can voice your concerns (or praise) about that charity. Please be sure to follow our posting guidelines.  

Thursday, July 7, 2016

We Met Our Goal

Thank you to all of our generous donors who participated in our summer fundraising campaign and matching gift challenge! With your support we have raised more than $250,000. 

From all of us at Charity Navigator, thank you for your generosity and commitment to helping millions of donors responsibly support the causes they believe in.

CN's Newest Financial Metric


As you have probably noticed, Charity Navigator recently released an updated set of metrics for measuring each charity’s financial health (called CN 2.1). The enhanced methodology was developed after years of reviewing and analyzing feedback, data and research. Included in the updated methodology is a brand new metric, called LTA, which measures a charity’s ratio of total liabilities to total assets (the higher the ratio, the lower the charity’s score for this metric). Along with our other capacity metrics, LTA is an indicator of an organization’s solvency and long term sustainability.  

In some cases, this metric will help to highlight if donor dollars are being used to service liabilities rather than going toward the charitable mission of the organization.  Liabilities do have some constructive uses but some of them often result in long term commitments of resources. This metric is not an analysis of “good” vs. “bad” liabilities that a charity has on their books.  Per our new methodology and per the data available on the Form 990, it is a measure of what the organization owes or has promised to provide in comparison to the assets it has on hand.  Some specific liabilities that a charity reports on their Form 990, such as grants payable or deferred revenue, may be in line with their charitable mission. However, these items are commitments the organization is expected to provide in the future.  And that is informative in terms of their ongoing financial health.  Regardless of the type of liability, there still may be some claim on assets as result of the liabilities reported.

As do organizations in other sectors, charities must be mindful of their management of their total liabilities in relation to their total assets.  There are two specific recent examples of charities that did not manage this balance well and eventually had to close.  A charity called the Federated Employment Guidance Services filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as it was drowning in debt.  Their latest IRS Form 990 showed that they had a total liabilities to total assets ratio of 75%.  The current average for this ratio for all the charities we currently rate is 22%.  Another charity, Hull House, closed down in 2012 after incurring large debt issues. No doubt, these charities had other problems which contributed to their demise. But they also had too many liabilities on their books and not enough asset coverage.