How Is Your Charity Doing?
What with thousands of jobs lost to this recession, it should come as no surprise that tax revenues are down (Press & Dakotan, Aug. 4) and no surprise that charities and benevolent organizations are sending out more mail requests for funds. They must be experiencing the same downturn as the IRS is seeing. Maybe this is a good time to look at what we can do to be sure that we get the most bang for our donation bucks.
We have in our country an organization that reports on the efficiency with which the larger national benevolent organizations utilize their income to get the most of our donated bucks to the people they say they are benefiting. (They do not grade local charities like United Way.) It is the American Institute of Philanthropy. They gather the public data provided the U.S. government, that all non-profits submit to maintain their tax-free status, evaluate it and provide a Charity Rating Guide and Watchdog Report three times per year to members. In this report they provide a rating of A, B, C, D or F for each group they survey, a list of those charities holding three or more years of reserves, and a list of the 25 highest pay packages for CEOs.
That grade is based heavily on how much they spend to raise each dollar of donations, how much they pay their CEO, and how big a reserve they have in cash and investments. Any group holding enough reserve to continue at current rate of expenditures for three years or more without receiving another dollar in donations is down rated on the theory that further funds should be given to others who are providing more of what is given to them to the recipients they claim to be helping.
Some examples of "A"-rated national charities in some categories (there are 36 categories), as well as the number of similar funds in that category that received lower grades, are:
• AMERICAN INDIAN (14): American Indian College Fund.
• BLIND & VISUALLY IMPAIRED (18): Guide Dog Foundation For The Blind, Helen Keller International/Child Sight, National Federation of the Blind, Prevent Blindness America/National Society to Prevent Blindness.
• CHILD PROTECTION (12): American Humane Association, Child Find of America, Child Welfare League of America, Children’s Defense Fund, Children’s Health Fund.
• CIVIL RIGHTS & ADVOCACY (18): Center for Constitutional Rights, People for the American Way Foundation.
• CRIME & FIRE PREVENTION (18 ... 14 of which received "F" ratings): Fortune Society.
• SENIOR CITIZENS (5): National Council on Aging.
• VETERANS & MILITARY (36 ... 22 of which received "F" ratings): Armed Services YMCA of the USA, Fisher House Foundation, Homes for our Troops, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, National Military Family Association.
The institute also reports on current scams, lawsuits and problems encountered by various charities. Here again, the idea is to help us donors get the most bang for our buck.
In these hard times, not everyone can be expected to afford the price of a subscription, so our Yankton Community Library has been provided with a subscription to the Charity Rating Guide and Watchdog Report to run for as long as folks continue to consult it. (The current issue has articles including: "Operation False Charity," "Large Asset Reserve Charity Threatens to Close Hospitals" and "Support Charity, not Terrorism.")
Anyone who supports any national charity could benefit from consulting this periodical to see how much of their donation is actually being received by the needy. You might also find another charity doing similar work that is rated higher then the one you support. Happy browsing.