In Your Corner: Holding Charities Accountable

By Ryan Elijah

June 18, 2010 Updated Jul 8, 2010 at 4:49 PM EDT

Each year Americans give billions of dollars to charities, but how do they know that the money is being spent wisely.

CharityNavigator is a New Jersey based watchdog group that has a goal of helping consumers know which charities are being good financial stewards.

Sandra Miniutti/Vice President of Charity Navigator said "we want to help donors know where to give money and help them pick charities that would be worthy of their donations"

Last week an Indianapolis program "Shop with a Deputy" came under fire because Charity Navigator found 70 percent of funds raised were used for fundraising and only 19 percent went to programs.

The site uses available tax forms as they monitor more than six-thousand 501 (c)(3) charities, giving each a rating of 0-4 stars.
Currently, Charity Navigator has a rating on just 7 Fort Wayne based charities, of those seven only one has been given it's highest 4-star rating based on their standards. That one charity is the Fort Wayne Zoological Society.

One reason the society ranks so well is they spend over 90 percent of revenue on actual programs. Taylor University, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and World Missionary Press also received 4-star ratings. Of 65 evaluated Indiana Charities just 11 earned that top grade.

Charity Navigator officials told us most charities that receive a bad rating have a common problem, professional fundraisers.

"the bulk of them use paid fundraisers and most of the money raised goes to that professional instead of the actual mission", said Sandra Miniutti.

It's important to note that Charity Navigator strictly evaluates on a financial scale and doesn't factor in the actual work of the charity. While some local charity leaders I spoke with may not agree on their rating, they do agree the site is doing a good service of holding charities accountable for the money they bring in.
Click here to visit CharityNavigator.org.

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