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.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Victory for Donors!

Remember those four sham, interrelated cancer charities we heard about last year? Together, they cheated donors out of $187 million. Donors were under the impression that their contributions would go to cancer patients and cancer related research. In reality, donations were funding dinner dates, vacations, and even a boat!

All too often we hear negative stories about charities, so it’s a much appreciated victory to see the good guys win in the end. Agencies throughout fifty states, alongside the Federal Trade Commission, have worked for years to finally put an end to the unethical practices of these four charities. While the cases were closed in May 2015 for two of the charities (Children’s Cancer Fund of America and the Breast Cancer Society), the cases against the remaining two just closed.

Cancer Fund of America Inc. (CFA) and Cancer Support Services Inc. (CSS) scammed $75 million from donors! By decision of the court, the two charities must permanently cease operations. The order imposes a judgement of $76 million against CFA, CSS, and James Reynolds, Sr., the leader of these charities. Moreover, Reynolds is banned from profiting from any charity in the future. This is huge victory for donors!

So, how can you avoid being the victim of similar charity scams? Intelligent donors don’t give solely in response to heart wrenching appeals! They do their research to ensure that the charity in question is financially healthy, ethical and effective. Exactly, what Charity Navigator is here to help you do.

Check out our charity ratings and other giving tips.
Unsure of how to make sure a charity does what they claim? Start by asking these questions.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Two Parrot Productions Granting USD $90,000+ in Video Production to Three Charities!

Two Parrot Productions, a Miami-based video company that creates inspiring human-centric video content for non-profit organizations, and its partners, are offering an innovative grant to non-profit organizations for FREE video production services. Through the “Eyes On Your Mission grant opportunity, three lucky non-profits will receive video production services valued between $15,000.00 - $75,00000 each (depending on the locations).

Community based non-profit organizations work hard to make the world a better place but many do not have the capacity to market themselves and showcase their good deeds. With limited budgets and staff prioritized for clients and programs, non-profits often lack the funding and bandwidth for communications planning and video marketing tools considered standard in profit businesses. However, Two Parrot Productions knows the more eyes they have on their mission, the bigger the impact and the more effective these organizations can be in changing the world.

Eyes On Your Mission helps non-profits tell their story, illustrate their successes and articulate their impact in vivid detail for potential funders, partners, sponsors, volunteers, and board members. Two Parrot provides rich media and needed video services that exposes the amazing work these changemakers are really doing.

In 2015, the "Eyes On Your Mission" pro bono video project received sixty 501c3 applications from around the world for 100% free production services. Of the sixty applicants, three grants were awarded to: Make-A-Wish, International, the Miami Children's Initiative, and the Alliance for Climate Education - click through to see two of the three finished video projects.

Communications Director for the Alliance for Climate Education, Leah Qusba, states, “Winning the Eyes On your Mission grant last year provided us with an invaluable communications campaign and has been a major catalyst for us. From one full day of production, 19 stand-alone videos were produced, which not only positioned us as a leader in the climate change movement but is getting the word out in way we couldn’t have done without Two Parrot and its partners.”

Now in its second year, Two Parrot Productions, Charity Navigator and Bristol Strategy Group are joined by the Center for Social Change to recognize and award three new grantees for 2016. The grant is international, multi-lingual, and multi-ethnic in its considerations.  For more information on the “Eyes on Your Mission” grant opportunity, application and grant submission schedule, interested 501c3 organizations should go to: http://twoparrot.com/free


Presidential Candidates and Philanthropy

Photo credit: Dave Newman
With primary season heating up, four candidates remain with a hope of reaching the White House. Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, and Bernie Sanders all have different takes on both personal giving and how best to propel philanthropy for everyone. How do these candidates stack up from a philanthropic perspective? Here is a summary, as reported by The Chronicle of Philanthropy:

Donald Trump
Donald Trump continues not to release his tax forms, which makes any in-depth analysis of his giving rate and charitable gifts impossible. He maintains he has given $100 million to charity in his lifetime, but that number can't be tracked or verified at this time.

Ted Cruz
Ted Cruz's tax return for 2014 shows that his and his wife's adjusted gross income for 2014 was just over $1.2 million. However, there is no mention of charitable gifts. Between 2006 and 2010, the couple donated less than 1 percent of their combined income to charity.

Hillary Clinton
Hillary and Bill Clinton had an adjust gross income of just under $28 million in 2014. They donated $3 million to charity, at a giving rate of 10.8 percent. Most of their charitable giving went to the Clinton Foundation, which focuses on global issues of economic development, climate change, girls and women, and global health.

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane O'Meara Sanders, had an adjusted gross income of $205,000 dollars in 2014. They donated $10,367 to charity, or about 5 percent of their income.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Are you maximizing your charitable donation deductions?

Americans give hundreds of billions of dollars in potentially tax-deductible donations each year

With the April 18th deadline approaching, you should know how much you can deduct, what types of contributions are deductible and how to best itemize deductions on your income taxes. 

Check out our tips now for help in answering these important questions.
  • Article: Accurately Deduct Charitable Gifts
  • Tip-Sheet: Tax Benefits of Giving
  • Giving Calculator: Displays the net cost of a donation and your tax savings
  • FAQs: Questions about the tax implications of charitable giving 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hassle Free Giving

Charity Navigator was founded to help ensure donor’s have trust in charities, and if you are reading this blog right now, then it affirms one more statement: You trust in us. One of our most important core values is trust because as an evaluator, we must be of the standard in which we evaluate everyone else. Here at Charity Navigator we like to make sure that our donors have the opportunity to “give in peace.” We make this happen through a relatively new feature, launched on October 29th, 2015, called our Giving Basket. This giving basket enables donors to give to charities anonymously, which helps them avoid constant follow up appeals for support that can cause some donors to lose their enthusiasm for charitable giving.

Since launching the Giving Basket, Charity Navigator has experienced an incredible amount of positive feedback. Here, a donor who used the Giving Basket expressed her satisfaction through social media by saying, “The @CharityNav Giving Basket is my new favorite thing. Makes it most easy to donate to multiple nonprofits in a single transaction!” We also feature a “Donation Ticker” that allows anyone who visits our website to see a live feed of donations made via our Giving Basket. Through only about five months, the giving basket has had:

  • 9,911 donors
  • $5,588,715 donated
  • 5,172 charities supported

The giving basket allows donors to anonymously give to as many charities that they desire, with the simple click of a button. Now with another simple click of a button, YOU can join the safe and convenient luxury of being able to donate to the causes that you care about. Be sure to visit the Giving Basket and be a part of the amazing giving experience with thousands of other satisfied donors.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Friday, March 18, 2016

Tips to maximize your tax savings!

As April 18 quickly approaches, many of us will be rushing around to get last minute paperwork in order for dreaded tax day. All year long, you have worked hard to hopefully get a little something back, but what do you do about all the charitable donations you made? Knowing what you can and cannot claim can be a confusing process. Often times, being misinformed can lead to no tax savings at all. Here at Charity Navigator, we put together a comprehensive list to help guide you through the technical process and put your mind at ease this tax season.

The first tip, and most commonly forgotten, is making sure to document all cash donations. The IRS requires proof of all cash donations and a canceled check, statement or receipt from the receiving organization will do just fine. Donating online via Charity Navigator's Giving Basket helps you fulfill this requirement since all your giving records will be stored in one place. Second, monetary gifts of $250 or more require additional documentation. In this case, you must prove to the IRS that you made the donation and did not receive anything in return. Obtaining a receipt with the charity name, value of the gift and date, along with a statement saying you did not receive goods in return will work fine in this case.

The third tip, and a bit complex, is to be careful when valuing a donated car. Back in 2005, a law was put in place to monitor taxpayers who were overvaluing their donated cars. Due to the overvaluing, the IRS continues to take a closer look at these deductions. If you donated a car worth more than $500, you can only deduct the amount the charity received from the sale of your car.  The fourth tip, and maybe most abused, is making sure donated clothing and household items are in good condition. The exception here, is if you donate clothing or a household item worth more than $500, you can claim a deduction, regardless of its condition, as long as you submit a qualified appraisal with your tax return. Keep in mind, the above tips will only be helpful if the following actions have been taken: you itemized, meaning that your total deductions were greater than the standard deduction; you donated to a qualified 501(c)(3) charity and your gift was made on time. As long as your donation was in by December 31, but you made a payment to your credit card company the following year, you still qualify.

As this tax season winds down, be aware of what you can and cannot claim ahead of time to ensure you are maximizing your potential tax savings!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Support a Charity in Celebration of St. Patrick's Day

Click on their name to learn more about each of these St. Patrick's Day inspired charities.

Trinity College
American Ireland Fund
St. Patrick Center
Irish International Immigrant Center
Global Green USA
The Irish Repertory Theatre
Patrick Henry Boys and Girls Plantation
US-Ireland Alliance
Big Green Scholarship Foundation

Each day, based on a particular holiday (like St. Patrick's Day) or current event, Charity Navigator’s experts select several highly-rated charities to highlight. Subscribe now.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Another Fake Charity

When we give, we do so with the aim of helping others advance in life and alleviating hardship. Keeping why we give in mind, it is particularly enraging whenever we hear about a charity scam. This week, yet another “organization” has joined the fake charity ranks.
In Texas, a group of men were going door to door soliciting cash donations. They claimed that their organization, United Soldiers Outreach, LLC, would use these donations to send care packages to American soldiers stationed abroad. When police stopped the men, they confiscated over $500.

No arrests have been made, as police have yet to determine if the men were aware they were working for an illegitimate organization or not. Police are seeking to refund donations made by check to this “organization.” But those who gave cash or goods are probably out of luck.

Before making a donation, make sure you ask the charity questions about their legitimacy, their results, and their goals.  In fact, a better way to give is to flip this process upside down. Instead of reacting to someone asking you for support, take the time to identify great charities doing the work you are passionate about supporting. Once you become a proactive, rather than a reactive, giver, you’ll be able to rest assured that your hard-earned money is going to the causes you care about supporting.

Unsure what to ask charities before donating? Click here to see questions we’ve drafted for you!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Mark Your Calendars! The Fight for Women’s Equality Continues


March is a bustling month, filled with March Madness in the basketball world, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and those heavy March winds. One very special day in particular reminds us all of the brave women from the past and present who have fought and continue to fight for women’s equality all around the world. Tuesday, March 8, is International Women’s Day, and there are a number of charities working tirelessly to carry out the mission of protecting, encouraging, and enhancing the lives of women.
International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900’s. However, it wasn’t until 1910, that it would be declared as a celebration in every country around the world on an annual basis. The woman behind this proposal was Clara Zetkin, who was the leader of the “Women's Office” for the Social Democratic Party in Germany. The year 2011 marked the 100 year anniversary of the first celebration of International Women’s Day in Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. In the same year, President Barack Obama declared March as Women’s History Month in order to commemorate the outstanding accomplishments of women from the past and present. In many countries, International Women’s Day is similar to Mother’s Day where men give gifts or flowers to their mothers, grandmothers and wives.

You can celebrate International Women’s Day by supporting a top-rated charity working to ensure women continue to thrive and make a difference for generations to come. A donation to a highly-rated charity working in this field is a great way to honor the women who started it all and to assist those still carrying out this journey of equality. Keep fighting and keep celebrating!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Be Aware of Storefront Fundraisers

Have you ever walked out of your local grocery store and dropped a dollar or two in a donation bucket? Have you ever pondered over the thought of where your dollar might actually be going? Unfortunately, not all of those donation tables are there for the right reasons. Back in January of this year, a New Jersey couple posed as employees from a local veterans organization outside a Stop and Shop supermarket. Sadly, they presented fraudulent documents to the supermarket in order to get clearance.

They had set up their donation table like many reputable charities do, but they were not collecting money on behalf of the organization. They were pocketing the money all for themselves and had no correlation to the actual charity. Unfortunately, this was not the first time the couple had manipulated people into thinking they were actually donating to a good cause.The unrated organization, Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon, could not comment on the case because it was still not resolved in court.

As we’ve said before, dropping money in a bucket outside of a store may not always be the best way to give. But you can minimize your risk of getting scammed by taking the time to find great charities doing the work you want to fund and supporting them directly. Be aware and be smart when donating!  

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Why Does Giving Skyrocket on New Year’s?

Towards the end of October 2015, we launched the Giving Basket – a tool that makes it easy for our users to donate on our site. In just a few months’ time, we’ve seen more than $5.48 million flow through this tool. Not surprisingly, over 92% of the donations have gone to 3 and 4-star rated charities (the bulk of the remainder of the donations, approximately 6%, went to unrated charities).

Maybe even more interesting than which charities are receiving the gifts, is the timing of the donations. Giving Basket donors gave at a pretty constant rate for most of November. In early December, we see a moderate uptick in giving around GivingTuesday. After that, giving steadily grew as Christmas approached. And then we saw a tremendous spike in giving right around New Year's. 

Just how big was this bump in donations at the end of the year? Well, 56% of all the donations that flowed through the Giving Basket in November and December occurred in the last 5 days of the year. And 25% took place just on New Year's Eve. Furthermore, this isn't just a trend seen in our data. Other giving reports show the same pattern.

So, what’s driving all this giving just before and on New Year’s Eve? Although donors often site other motivating factors when asked about their year end giving, it seems that the obvious answer is the charitable tax deduction. That’s because donors who wish to take advantage of this tax break must make their donations before the end of the year.   

Whether or not the tax benefits of giving motivated you to donate, be sure you know how much you can deduct, what types of contributions are deductible and how to best itemize deductions on your income taxes. Check out our tips now for help in answering these important questions.