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, November 30, 2016

Charity Navigator Users Are Generous!

World AIDS Day


World AIDS Day is observed annually on December 1st, and has been since it became the first global health day, in 1988. This day is used to unify people in the fight against HIV and to mourn those who have been lost due to the illness. The pandemic of HIV is prevalent all over the world, as there are approximately 34 million people currently living with the virus. In addition, the virus has taken the lives of more than 35 million people since its being first identifiable in 1984. Community organizations, government and health officials, and individuals all over the world observe the day and commit to educating people on methods of treatment and overall prevention.

Each World AIDS Day is focused around a specific theme, which are all chosen after consultations with numerous organizations associated with the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. This year’s campaign is entitled “Not Retro, Just Wrong”, focused on helping to end the stigma of HIV diagnosis and put it in the past, where it beings. The stigmas associated with with HIV often come from opinions and assumptions derived from 2 and 3 decades ago, during a time where much of the virus was unknown. However, HIV is no longer a death sentence, but now a virus that if properly treated, can effectively be lived with.

For millions of people, HIV is a daily fight that is reliant on not just medication, but support, empathy, and understanding by those not living with the virus/disease. To take a stand against HIV, engage in social media initiatives that help end the stigmas often associated with the virus/disease. You can do this by posting a funny retro picture of you or anyone close to you on social media with the hashtag #HIVNOTRETRO, showing that some styles reappear themselves over time, but the HIV stigmas do not need to be one of them. Other ways to get involved can be by sharing #HIVNOTRETRO campaign at your school, university, or workplace, or by encouraging people to wear retro clothing. Another way to get involved is simply by having honest conversations with the people around you, based on the stigmas associated with HIV, as many stigmas are due to lack of knowledge and misperception.  For anyone interested in holding a World AIDS Day event, please visit the World AIDS Day site, as the simultaneous raising of awareness and fundraising is encouraged.

Below we have put together a number of charities to assist anyone interested in donating to a cause benefitting HIV/AIDS. Please be sure to visit the charity’s profile to analyze their accountability, transparency, and financial standing. Use World AIDS Day to help make a difference, by encouraging those around you to get tested, have conversations about the importance of safe sex, and remember to wear a red ribbon on World AIDS Day, as the ribbon is a globally recognized symbol that shows support to the millions of people currently living with HIV/AIDS.

CBS Talks about Informed Giving with Charity Navigator

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Get Out The Give! Today's #GivingTuesday.

Today is #GivingTuesday, a national day of giving. 

Charity Navigator is here to help you join the celebration by donating to a worthy charity. Our charity ratings and complementary tools empower you to give confidently knowing your gifts will be used to their fullest potential. 

P.S. We hope you’ll remember Charity Navigator on this #GivingTuesday, too! Thank you!

Monday, November 28, 2016

I Give Because...

Tomorrow is #GivingTuesday
In this video, our staff shares the reasons why we'll be giving back.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Learn How To Ensure Your Holiday Contributions Are Well-Spent

The year-end holidays are a time of religious and moral reflection that inspire many people to reach out to those who are in need. Less altruistically, but still just as important, donors need to make their end-of-year giving decisions by December 31 to qualify for a tax deduction in this calendar year. As a result, a tremendous amount of charitable giving occurs between #GivingTuesday and the end of the year

If you choose to participate in the year-end charitable giving season, then we encourage you to take the time to ensure that your donations are doing the most good for the causes you care about. To assist you in conducting your due diligence, we’ve created a Holiday Giving Guide. In it you will find a set of five questions that donors should ask themselves before giving, a special top/bottom charity list and a set of interesting facts about charitable giving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

#GivingTuesday - Charity Navigator and GoFundMe

This #GivingTuesday, we’re collaborating with GoFundMe to help donors who choose to give through crowdfunding sites make smart choices.

What is crowdfunding?
Crowdfunding is a strategy used to raise money and awareness through the collective effort of many donors contributing smaller amounts. One critical key to a successful crowdfunding campaign is leverage. Crowdfunding helps individuals leverage their social networks to boost fundraising efforts and build momentum for the causes most important to them. 

How can you use crowdfunding to support your favorite causes?
Are you looking for a way to get involved?

Join the challenge and start a campaign on behalf of a charity! This holiday season, GoFundMe is giving back by challenging you to start a campaign for a cause or charity you care about. Now through December 9, you can have a chance to win a $10,000 donation for your cause from GoFundMe. It’s easy as 1-2-3. If you need suggestions for highly rated charities to campaign for, see our list below.

Most importantly, how can you be an informed giver while engaging on a crowdfunding site?
Before you start (or contribute to!) a #GivingTuesday crowdfunding campaign this year,  follow these tips:
  • Confirm 501(c)(3) status. If you are unfamiliar with a group claiming to be a public charity, you should ensure it has been granted tax-exempt status under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. All of the nonprofits Charity Navigator evaluates meet this basic requirement.
  • Get to know the charity. You can start by checking out its rating profile on our site. Before making a decision to donate, consider if this is an organization whose mission you stand behind. A charity 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.
  • Do your research. If you’re raising funds on behalf of an organization, double check with their financial advisory to ensure they are able to accept donations raised via crowdfunding.
  • Share. Crowdfunding requires a crowd! If you have identified a highly rated charity nonprofit to support this #GivingTuesday, share it with your social networks and invite them to support the cause with you. Use hashtags #GivingTuesday, #InformedGiving and #GiveBecause and the handles, @gofundme and @CharityNav to get the word out.
What are some popular charities on GoFundMe?
These highly-rated, 3 and 4 star charities are among the most popular on the GoFundMe platform:

What are YOU Thankful For ?

In the United States, Thanksgiving is celebrated every fourth Thursday of the month, and is also widely recognized as one of America’s favorite holidays. This comes as no surprise due to the record amounts of consumption that the statistics show on a yearly basis. The average human consumes 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving, and over 280 million turkeys are sold on average per year (1/6th solely for Thanksgiving). As Thanksgiving is a few short days away from us, many use this time to show their gratefulness and selflessness, by positively giving to society. For some, this may mean volunteering their time to a local food bank to feed the homeless, while others donate food and money to organizations that benefit those in need.

Thanksgiving comes with smiles, conversations, and overall thankfulness for all of life’s blessings. With that being said, it is also understood that many people are not fortunate enough to reap the blessings often associated with the anticipated holiday. With volunteerism being a staple of our society, this season is a great opportunity for Americans to serve those in need in addition to serving one’s self.

With over 42 million Americans suffering from hunger all over the world, Thanksgiving gives us an opportunity to help someone celebrate the holiday centered around food, with their family. Generosity becomes very reflective during this time of year, and more impactful than just the tangible results of giving, is the hope you give to those you touch. Another way to positively impact global society and sustainability, is by limiting the amount of food that you waste during this time. It is estimated that about $277 million worth of turkey meat alone will go to waste this Thanksgiving. Some suggestions to cut down the squandering of food can be by being cognizant of proper allocation of portions, planning for leftovers, or even choosing to give food away to people before you give it to the garbage.

Contributing to your community is not limited to just volunteering, but can be done by thinking of creative campaigns that encouraging calls to action for peers, donating money or food to local organizations, and countless other proactive efforts. Lets use this time to be grateful, inspired, and generous in our giving back. For those who would like to give back, please make sure to use our advanced search tool to find a charity to support and/or donate to via our Giving Basket.

Last but certainly not least, from us here at Charity Navigator, we would like to wish all of our users a Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Our most popular ratings are popular nationwide

In today’s post, I want to look a bit at our most heavily trafficked ratings, and how that traffic is distributed across the contiguous United States. Special thanks to Jess Freaner of Datascope Analytics for her visualization ideas.

It may come as no surprise that some ratings get visited more than others. In fact,  almost 36% of our ratings traffic goes to the top 1% of our ratings.*

In the graph below, I divided up all of our rated charities into 100 bins, with the leftmost bin representing the least popular charities. As you move to the right, you account for more and more of our total rating views, until the rightmost column accounts for 100%. (Hi-res graph)

Our top 20 charities alone are responsible for almost 20% of our traffic. Collectively, their ratings are viewed thousands of times each day. (Hi-res graph)

This demand is fairly uniform across the country; by-and-large, the difference in nationwide demand between organizations is greater than the difference in demand for the same organization in different regions.

One way we can see this is by looking at demand for our top charities on a state-by-state basis. In the graph below, each dot represents one US state (plus Washington, D.C.); there are 51 dots for each organization. The y-axis represents how much of that state’s rating views go to the organization in question. (Hi-res graph)

The dots come close together for most organizations, but they are far apart for some. Let’s look at two such examples: Wounded Warrior Project and Heifer International.

In the graph below, we break traffic down to the scale of US counties. We calculate the fraction of each county’s traffic going to the organization in question, and we compare that to the average** county. In counties that appear more orange, the organization is more popular than average; greener means less popular. (Hi-res graph)

These differences obscure a greater fact: as we have seen, our most popular ratings are popular nationwide. When it comes to our choice of charity, there is more that unites us than divides us.

David Bruce Borenstein is Charity Navigator’s lead data scientist. He holds a PhD in Quantitative and Computational Biology from Princeton.

* We have added ratings over time, which makes it difficult to compare traffic to charities. To get around this problem, I estimated how many rating views each charity would have had if it had been rated since day one.  To make this estimate, I simply scaled the org’s average daily rating views by the number of days since Charity Navigator was founded. I excluded any charities rated for the first time in the last 90 days.

** Here, “average” means geometric mean.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Metric Mondays #7: Fundraising Expenses

Last week, we focused on posting Audited Financial Statements online. Today’s Metric Monday will address Fundraising Expense Percentage.

Fundraising Expense Percentage looks at the amount of money spent on fundraising expenses reported on an organization’s Form 990 in relation to its total expenses. Any cost that is not allocated to actual program work or to administrative and general activities is allocated here. Organizations are required to allocate to fundraising any money that is spent in the process of raising money for the organization. Some examples of what is typically included here are salaries of development staff, cost of sending mailings, fundraising related travel, office expenses etc. All money paid to professional fundraising firms will be allocated here as well.

While we understand that organizations have to spend money to raise money, we check to make sure that fundraising expenses are in line with those of similar organizations. Some years will have higher fundraising expenses than others. This may be due to the start of a fundraising campaign, a special, non-recurring event, a feasibility study and so on. Our calculation takes this into account by averaging the fundraising and total expenses from the most recent 3 years.

The final numbers will then paint a more accurate picture of the typical expenses. Usually, we will see that most organizations spend less than 10% of their budget on their fundraising expenses. Where certain cause areas on a whole operate differently, we will make adjustments to our scoring of that particular type of organization. You can see details on those adjustments in our ratings tables.

To learn more about the fundraising expense percentage, please see our methodology.

16 Consecutive 4 Star Ratings!

As of November 1, 2016, the Children’s Aid Society is the FIRST organization in Charity Navigator history to have earned its 16th consecutive 4 star rating! That is impressive to say the least. What is even more attention grabbing than that, is the fact that they show all signs of strong financial stability to carry out their mission of helping impoverished children of New York City.

If you are interested in learning about more charities with the most consecutive 4 star ratings, check out our top 10 list!

Congratulations once again CAS, and keep up the fantastic work!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Veterans Day 2016: Honoring All Who Served

Veterans Day, November 11th, is an annual event to honor America's veterans for their patriotism and sacrifice. And there many ways in which you can commemorate this holiday such as:

So, what brings you here? End-of-year giving, most likely

It’s that time of year again: the trees are bare, everything is pumpkin spice-flavored, and Americans are thinking about end-of-year giving. In the years that we’ve been keeping track, November and December have generally been our busiest months. (Hi-res graph)

The graph above shows the percent of visits that take place within each week of the year. For each week, vertical column, multiple points represent observations over multiple years. The data shown are from the years 2007 through 2015. In a subsequent blog post, I’ll be talking about some of the outliers.

Now, you’ll often hear this end-of-year spike as “holiday giving.” Taxes, however, may also have something to do with it; over the years, 23% percent of December traffic has come in the week from Christmas to New Year’s Day. (Hi-res graph)

Demand varies over the year for different kinds of charities. The chart below shows the same data as before, but now each line represents a particular category of charity. We se, for example, that , health charities see a slow build over the second half of the year, while animal charities see a big spike at the end of the year. (Hi-res graph)

In my next blog post, I’ll be exploring the geography of Charity Navigator’s user base. Until next time, keep warm—and keep on giving wisely!

David Bruce Borenstein is Charity Navigator’s lead data scientist. He holds a PhD in Quantitative and Computational Biology from Princeton.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Charities that Support Women and Girls

Check out our list of highly-rated charities that focus their efforts on a variety of causes and issues which benefit women and girls, whether locally or internationally.

Charities Engaged in Environmental Protection and Conservation

Learn about charities that are combating pollution; promoting conservation and sustainable management of land, water, plant and energy resources; purchasing and protecting land; and developing more efficient uses of both energy and waste materials.

Support Charity Navigator

Right now, tax-deductible contributions to Charity Navigator will have twice the impact, thanks to a loyal donor who pledged to match all donations up to a $60,000 total.  Thank you for helping us continue our important work by making your gift today

Giving is Good. Smart Giving is GREAT!

If you choose to participate in the year-end charitable giving season, then we encourage you to take the time to ensure that your donations are doing the most good for the causes you care about. To assist you in conducting your due diligence, we've created a Holiday Giving Guide.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

What is #GivingTuesday?

#GivingTuesday is a national movement during the holidays dedicated to charitable giving, similar to how Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become days that are synonymous with holiday shopping. The goal of #GivingTuesday is to encourage people to come together with one common purpose -- to help others and incentivize ways to give more, give smarter, and celebrate the great American spirit of generosity through charitable contributions and volunteerism. 

Learn more about this movement and how you can get involved

Monday, November 7, 2016

Help Set the Table for Those in Need

To help you ensure that people in your community can have a special, hot meal this holiday season, we've posted a set of tips for picking a charity.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Elections and Public Charities

With the election soon approaching, it is important for charities to know the role in which they can and can’t play in regards to political activities. There are numerous ways in which charities can still be involved in the election process, even with the legal restrictions regarding their involvement. However, (501)(c)(3) public charities need to be aware of their obligations, under federal and state law. Below are two lists put together by Independent Sector, that outline useful and general capabilities of charities.

Things you CAN do as a 501(c)(3) public charity:
  • Continue your normal lobbying on issues
  • Work on behalf of a nonpartisan ballot measure
  • Conduct nonpartisan get-out-the-vote drives and voter registration efforts
  • Conduct nonpartisan public education and information sessions about participation in the political process
  • Make presentations on your organization's issue(s) to platform committees, campaign staff, candidates, media, and the general public
  • Conduct or participate in nonpartisan candidate forum
  • Rent mailing lists and facilities to candidates at fair market value, if made available to all candidates
  • Take advantage of the increased attention that policy issues enjoy during an election period to focus public attention on your organization's issues and agenda so long as these efforts are focused on promoting your organization's viewpoint on the issues, not on promoting the candidates who agree with it's view
  • Prepare and circulate candidate questionnaires and create voter guides if they cover a broad range of issues, the questions are unbiased, and the results are distributed only to your organization's membership. Note that strict rules apply here
  • Publish legislative scorecards for your membership that are part of your continuing lobbying if the scorecards list the votes of all legislators (not just candidates) on issues of interest to your organization. Note that strict rules apply here
  • Encourage your staff to participate as individuals in political campaigns on their own time and not as representatives of the organization

Things you CANNOT Do as a public charity:
  • Endorse or oppose a candidate
  • Coordinate activities with a candidate
  • Contribute money, time, or facilities to a candidate
  • Set up, fund, or manage a 527 / Political Action Committee (PAC)
  • Evaluate candidate positions (except in certain circumstances where the evaluation pertains to a candidate's position on pending legislation that is the subject of lobbying by the organization)
  • Restrict the rental of your mailing lists or facilities to specific candidates, or political parties

Please note that the above content is for general advice, and is not to be referred to as legal guidelines.