Category: NON-Profit

Charities already looking for Thanksgiving meal donations for those in need – WPLG Local 10

MARGATE, Fla. – With the latest coronavirus stimulus package still stalled in Congress as the nation continues to absorb the economic impacts of COVID-19, food insecurity remains on the rise. That means the number of people who say they can’t afford enough food for consistent meals is growing.

The need so great that one group of volunteers is already starting a Thanksgiving food drive and needs your help.

At Florida Career College in Margate, volunteers sort through donated items to prepare Thanksgiving meal kits. Yes, while it may seem early for that, organizers say the need in our community has intensified.

The college has partnered with the nonprofit 100 People Project to get ahead of the anticipated demand come November.

Last year, a Map the Meal Gap report put South Florida’s food insecurity rate at 12% — that’s more than 500,000 people not knowing where they will get their next meal.

Then came COVID-19 and the related economic impacts, forcing more families into food insecurity.

Feeding South Florida says about 50% of the families at drive-through distribution sites were seeking food assistance for the first time.

Hit especially hard are households with children, according to the Brookings Institution, which charts a steady increase of food insecurity since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, especially among Black and Hispanic households.

That’s why community food drives like this one say they need your help.

How to help

For viewers who might want to support the effort, all seven South Florida-area Florida Career College locations are accepting donated items from the public until Nov. 20.

Non-perishable food items that can be donated include:

  • Canned vegetables (corn, green beans, yams, sweet potatoes)
  • Boxes of instant mashed potato mix
  • Boxes of stuffing mix
  • Canned cranberry sauce
  • Boxes of macaroni and cheese
  • Boxes of cornbread mix
  • Cans of soup
  • Pasta
  • Gravy mix or canned gravy

All donated items will be sorted into Thanksgiving meal kits and distributed to families in need at a drive-through food giveaway being held at the Margate campus before Thanksgiving. People can also make financial contributions to 100 People Project, which is a 501c3 nonprofit organization.

Also see

What is food insecurity?

Racial economic inequality amid the COVID-19 crisis

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Calling all nonprofits: Share your needs for the holidays and beyond, to be included in PennLive’s annual Wis – PennLive

In this unprecedented year, helping others has never been more important and impactful than it is now.

Just as the pandemic has crippled many small businesses, local charities and nonprofits have taken a hit in 2020. These nonprofits are in need of assistance as they continue to serve the same communities we all live in.

With that in mind, PennLive will once again offer its annual “Wish List” of goods and services needed by nonprofit organizations and charities, just in time for holiday giving.

Nonprofit organizations are invited to submit up to three items, such as canned goods, pet food, volunteers or monetary donations. If asking for volunteers, please describe the task (such as doing yard work). A request for money must be designated for a purpose (such as buying diapers or shelves). *Note: If a purpose for volunteers and money isn’t designated, those generic wishes will not be listed.

Nonprofits wanting their wishes to be included in the Holiday Wish List should fill out the form on PennLive here.

The “Wish List” will be posted on on Nov. 22, and will be published in The Patriot-News at a date to be determined. Deadline for submitting wishes is Nov. 13.

Questions? Contact Janet Krajcsik at

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Utah-based a capella group hoping to win $10000 for charity in national competition – East Idaho News

BYU’s Vocal Point released an a capella music video performance of “Beauty and the Beast” with Lexi Walker, front, in 2017. Watch it in the video above. | Photo taken by McKay Crockett

The following is a news release from

PROVO, Utah – Vocal Point, Brigham Young University’s award-winning all-male a cappella group, dominated Texas A&M University’s South Asian group Swaram in Round One to advance to the “Singing Sixteen” Regional Finals of the “UpStagedAID: One World, Every Student Voice” National Collegiate Performing Arts A Cappella Championships.

The first round winners were announced officially during a results show on Thursday, October

In Round two, Vocal Point faces off against Utah Valley University’s legendary group Voiceline.

With an impressive 58.4% of the fan vote, Vocal Point’s YouTube renown aided them in rolling past two-time reigning Awaaz champion, South Asian group Swaram. Previously unranked Voiceline rocked the a cappella world with a No. 1 seed and tight victory over prestigious South Asian fusion Hum.

Founded in 1991 and celebrated as “one of the greatest college a cappella groups of all time” by Deke Sharon, BYU Vocal Point has appeared everywhere from national championships to national television (NBC’s The Sing-Off). Vocal Point’s online popularity is unmatched, with more than 100 million views on the group’s YouTube channel. The group has won dozens of Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards, as well as an Emmy award for their “Christmas Under The Stars” TV Christmas Special.

Founded in 2012, Voiceline’s mission is “to uplift, inspire, and bring joy to all within the sound of their voices.” The group has performed in front of thousands on national television on NBC’s The Sing-Off’s third season and live throughout the west and southwest. They are 2020 ICCA Regional placers and Award Winners.

Voting for Round two opened last Tuesday here.

The unprecedented bracket-style competition (modeled after NCAA’s March Madness) kicked off September 21st, and is being hosted on Winning teams will receive $10,000+ in cash prizes and donations to the social justice charities of their choice. Vocal Point is competing for the national non-profit NAACP. Watch a video of the team announcing its charity below.

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Tournament rounds feature a one-on-one—four-minute video vs. four-minute video—structure. Winners are determined by a combination of fan voting (Rounds One through Three) and celebrity judging (Semifinals and Finals Rounds), headed by a cappella legend Deke Sharon (“the father of contemporary acappella”—Entertainment Weekly) and fellow industry veterans Annette Philip and Christopher Diaz. Teams who are defeated in bracket rounds move to the “All-American Encore Round,” where they still have a chance to achieve NCPA College A cappella All-American status and earn prize money. More information can be found on

To share wins and updates on social media, and to encourage students, alumni and fans to vote for Vocal Point, please tag @UpStagedNCPA and use the hashtags #NCPAchamps, #UpstagedU and #NCPAacappella.

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Elon Musk’s charity donations use philanthropy as a tax haven – Quartz

Elon Musk is known for spending billions of dollars to build better electric cars and bigger rockets. Since 2008, the Tesla CEO has spent more than $80 billion just rolling out the electric carmaker’s first three models, according to public financial filings.

But when it comes to giving money away, the billionaire and head of the Musk Foundation is in a bit less of a hurry.

Founded in 2002 by Musk and his younger brother Kimbal, the Musk Foundation is a private 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Kimbal Musk serves as secretary, treasurer, and board director, while the elder Musk serves as president and the sole funder, having started the organization with $2.5 million in 2002.

Each year, nonprofits like the Musk Foundation disclose their assets and donations to the IRS as paper or digital filings. Quartz assembled nearly two decades of IRS filings to analyze the foundation’s finances. The picture shows a foundation giving away dozens of small donations in its early years to Elon Musk’s pet causes, before changing its strategy as its assets rose to more than a quarter-billion dollars.

Between 2002 and 2015, the foundation gave away an average of $493,801 per year, with assets dropping to $57,000 in 2015. But the balance increased dramatically the next year with Musk’s contribution of 1.2 million shares of Tesla stock, kicking off a string of substantial donations—most of them to financial institutions that began managing his philanthropy.

So far, Musk has donated at least $257 million to the foundation, most of it Tesla stock. And its grants have increased in turn: Between 2016 and 2018, the Musk Foundation distributed $65 million, somewhat more than the minimum (5% of assets) the foundation must disburse annually to avoid IRS penalties. The foundation’s most recent filings (tax year 2017) show most of the contributions have gone to about 200 nonprofits focused on education, healthcare, community service, environment, and space.

Most of the foundation’s grantees have received small contributions. The median amount is $10,000 and approximately 20% of the funds went to research, technology, and community services, in line with the Musk Foundation‘s mission as stated on its bare-bones summary on its (Yahoo!-hosted) website.

Over time, IRS records show Musk’s giving has shifted toward the intersection of his business interests and his home base in Los Angeles. In 2012, he gave $8,750 to the neurosurgery researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles (Musk’s company Neuralink is seeking to build a direct computer-brain interface), $10,000 to the Los Angeles Police Foundation, and $25,000 to The Rose Foundation for Angelenos against Gridlock (traffic is one of his bugbears).

Generally, the foundation’s causes have fallen left of center, including a $2,500 donation to the Transgender Law Center and $19,200 for the William J. Clinton Foundation in 2011. But he’s also given to right-wing organizations such as the Cato Institute, a $5,000 donation in 2007 to “promote public policy based on individual liberty [and] limited government” and the conservative National Taxpayers Union Foundation in 2005. You can search every one of them in the table below.

But all of these sums are dwarfed by donations to just three organizations: a $10 million donation to, a research group set up by the Silicon Valley accelerator Y Combinator (run by Musk’s collaborator on OpenAI, Sam Altman) with the aim of “making grants to other 501(c)(3) initiatives and activities that are trying to solve the world’s problems,” and two donor-advised funds ($50 million) run by Vanguard and Fidelity. Together, these account for 86% of the reported giving to date. The group managing the Musk Foundation’s finances, the Catalyst Family Office in Menlo Park, CA, did not respond to press inquiries.

Musk is following a strategy the ultra-wealthy in tech (and elsewhere) have pursued for years: create a donor-advised fund to do your giving. These are like checking accounts for wealthy donors where funds can grow tax-free and grants can be directed anonymously over time. Fidelity Charitable, now the wealthiest nonprofit in the US, calls this the “easiest and most tax-advantageous” way to give to charity. They’ve grown so big they’re now a new source of Wall Street profits.

Nothing about this is out of the ordinary for Silicon Valley founders. As The New York Times reported, billionaires who hold donor-advised funds with the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (with $13.5 billion in assets) include Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Netflix’s Reed Hastings, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, Google’s Sergey Brin, Microsoft’s Paul Allen, and WhatsApp’s Jan Koum and Brian Acton.

These financial vehicles are essentially black boxes, with no transparency or annual giving requirements. Critics argue donor-advised funds distort the purpose of the tax code, which grants donors generous tax relief right away while leaving how and when these funds will be used uncertain.

The benefit to billionaires is clear: Money donated to such funds delivers immediate tax breaks by reducing taxable income and assets, especially in years with large windfall profits or major life events (like an IPO or divorce). But unlike family foundations, which must distribute a certain share of their assets each year, no time requirements exist for donor-advised funds. Their money can be held for 100 years (or more). Funds that donate the money to nonprofits, even partisan political ones (501(c)(4)s under the tax code), can be anonymous gifts without any affiliation with the donor itself.

Of course, society should make it easy to give money away. But the lack of transparency and rules has prompted moves by politicians in Washington and California to bring regulation of donor-advised funds in line with those governing other foundations. So far, those bills remain in limbo.

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Foundations Set Public Policy Agenda For 2021 – The NonProfit Times

The Johnson Amendment, encouraging charitable giving, federal tax regulations and post-graduate scholarships top the list of policy priorities for the Council on Foundations (CoF) for 2020-2021. The CoF also does not support a change in the mandatory payouts by foundations.

The Washington, D.C.-based CoF’s public policy council recently released the priorities list and the rationale for the targeting.

The policy position is that the CoF supports the Johnson Amendment, which has been under attack the past few years. The Johnson Amendment helps ensure that all 501(c)(3) nonprofits are protected from having to engage in political activity.

Qualifying nonprofits cannot engage in political campaign activities, including endorsing or opposing political candidates or other actions that are viewed as intervening in elections to public office. Organizations that violate the Johnson Amendment risk losing their tax-exempt status.

The CoF will also continue to support the charitable sector’s involvement in public policy in accordance with current rules and regulations, according to the policy statement’s authors.

When it comes to enhancing funding, the CoF will develop an inclusive policy that targets a Universal Charitable Deduction or Credit and expanding the IRA Charitable Rollover.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) (P.L. 115-97) in 2017 expanded the standard deduction (raising it from $6,500 to $12,000), reducing the number of taxpayers who itemize deductions, including their charitable contributions. For the 2019 tax year, the Tax Foundation estimates that just fewer than 14 percent of taxpayers will itemize their taxes.

Enacting the universal charitable deduction would extend a tax deduction for charitable giving regardless of whether taxpayers claim the standard or itemized deductions, according to the council’s statement. This would diversify the pool of charitable donors, given that higher-income taxpayers are much more likely to itemize their deductions than those with lower incomes, according to the policy statement.

The CoF also supports enacting a charitable tax credit, which a few states have enacted for donations to specific types of charities, and expanding the IRA Charitable Rollover. When it comes to IRAs, one option is to lower the age threshold to be able to take advantage of such rollovers and to encourage the increased use of donor-advised funds (DAFs) by allowing IRA distributions to be transferred to DAFs, according to the policy statement’s authors. Another option is to allow individuals to make donations tax-free through IRA rollovers beginning at age 65 to split-interest trusts (e.g., charitable gift annuities or charitable remainder trusts).

When it comes to higher payouts by foundations, the CoF public policy is that the current 5 percent payout matches with historic levels of growth of investment income at private foundations.

Increasing the payout requirement for private foundations and creating a new mandate for DAFs would unnecessarily limit philanthropy’s ability to respond to future crises, according to the policy statement’s authors. If similar proposals to impose a 10-percent payout had been adopted following the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, or the Great Recession of 2008, philanthropy would now have fewer resources and a significantly reduced ability to respond to Covid-19. “The payout rate should be based on facts and research,” according to the authors, and the contention is that the current 5-percent payout rate is an accurate reflection of the historic return on assets earned by foundations.

Finally, the CoF supports efforts to strengthen foundations’ ability to administer post-graduation scholarship grant programs to stimulate regional economic growth and help address the growing student debt crisis.

The policy statement is available here …

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Amendment C supporters hoping to win B-I-N-G-O next month – The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

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Amendment C, a measure on next month’s ballot, would allow charities and nonprofit organizations to hire people to operate the bingos and raffles they use as part of their fundraising efforts.

But while some of those organizations say that is a good thing, other nonprofit groups argue the opposite.

Robert Kidd, state commander of the Colorado Veterans of Foreign Wars, said all the measure would do is professionalize bingos and raffles, and end up diverting money away from charities and put it into the hands of for-profit companies.

He said the amendment would commercialize charitable bingo games and let for-profit operators take over.

“The amendment will grind down one of the larger revenue streams nonprofit organizations have for use in your community,” Kidd said.

Supporters of the measure, however, say that bingo is in a death spiral, going from nearly 50 bingo halls around the state in the 1980s to 11 today, going from generating about $129 million a year in funds to just $23 million.

They say that’s partly because laws surrounding bingo haven’t been updated in years, and doesn’t allow nonprofits to alter games to attract new players and energize current ones.

Also part of the problem is that current law requires nonprofit groups to conduct them, and members of those nonprofit groups to operate them. As a result, they are too reliant on fewer and fewer volunteers to help.

By law, only nonprofits that have received bingo or raffle licenses can operate them, and only those that have been in existence for at least five years can get such licenses. The constitutional amendment would lower that requirement to three years, and give the Colorado Legislature the authority to lower it even more after 2024.

Kidd said that’s likely to happen, and will further turn the fundraising activity into a business venture, resulting in a cheapening of charitable organizations.

“Communities within Colorado benefit from the operation of nonprofits each day,” he said. “In many locations around Colorado, nonprofits are the sole community asset that is the anchor of the population that enhance the economic, social groups, the unique spirit and cultural well-being of their respective communities.”

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Keeping Up With Digital Demands Challenges Nonprofits – The Chronicle of Philanthropy

Even in This Zoom Moment, Nonprofits Struggle With Technology

Photo of a Nurse-Family Partnership nurse visiting with a couple and their young daughter.

Nurse-Family Partnership

More nonprofit work is going digital in the pandemic, but few organizations are yet adept at providing services online only, a new study from Hopelab has found.

And just when many nonprofits want to step up their technology spending to do better, they can’t afford to because they are faced with stretched budgets and increased demand for services, Jim Rendon reports.

Only 26 percent of nonprofits have a senior-ranking official in charge of technology, and very few have access to employees who understand technology and design, says Margaret Laws, CEO of Hopelab.

The lack of digital savvy means “nonprofits are getting further and further away from the way their consumers or users live their everyday lives because they are not able to engage with them over the technology that they’re using.” And as a result, she says, it makes nonprofits “less convenient, less relevant.”

One challenge for many nonprofits is that few grant makers are willing to support their work to improve their technology. Three in four nonprofits in the Hopelab study said they had never received foundation support for their digital work. “You have this really perplexing situation where donors or philanthropists who would never run their businesses without technology who won’t fund the technology aspect of a nonprofit organization because it doesn’t feel like it’s a direct service,” says Laws.

Still, some groups are overcoming the challenge. Among them Nurse-Family Partnership, a nonprofit that arranges home visits between nurses and young first-time mothers. It worked with Hopelab to develop an app for the nurses and their clients. The app has been crucial during the Covid crisis because it allows the nurses and mothers to build bonds without the danger of in-person contact. What’s more, some mothers have been more forthcoming about their challenges through the app then during in-person visits — and that’s one reason the group will continue using technology long after the Covid emergency and the need for social distancing are over.

Foundations Are Moving More Money Into DAFs

Foundations are shifting more dollars into donor-advised funds, a new Chronicle analysis finds. The tactic is legal but questionable because it is a way to avoid public disclosure rules and work around foundation payout rules.

At least 375 foundations sent more than $740 million to donor-advised funds in 2018, the latest year for which tax returns are available, Marc Gunther found. That’s more in a single year than in the three years we last studied (2014 to 2016).

Roger Colinvaux, a law professor at Catholic University and an expert on donor-advised funds, who was formerly counsel to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, says: “If all the foundation is doing is shifting money from one investment fund to another investment fund, it’s violating the spirit of the rules.”

The growing use of the tactic has prompted calls for Congress to take action to prevent the transfers. The billionaire philanthropist John Arnold and Boston College law professor Ray Madoff are shaping a proposal for lawmakers that would make the transfers illegal. And the Minnesota Council on Foundations has proposed that grant makers be required to report to state attorneys general and the public on all grants from DAF accounts to which they have transferred funds.

Philanthropy experts are opposed to the calls for new rules, saying there are many good reasons for foundations to transfer money to donor-advised funds, including the protection of donor privacy.

“Donor privacy is essential to a vibrant civil society,” says Joanne Florino, a vice president of the Philanthropy Roundtable. “It protects donors who give to controversial causes, donors who give anonymously from a sense of humility or deeply held religious beliefs, and donors who wish to minimize off-mission solicitations.”

A surge in donor-advised fund giving through community foundations. Gifts from donor-advised funds housed at some of the largest community foundations in the nation soared 42 percent in March through August compared with the same period last year, according to new data.

Foundation Leadership Ranks Show No Movement on Diversity

Grant makers are pouring money into racial-equity efforts in record numbers but they are still struggling to diversify their own work forces, a new Council on Foundations report finds.

People of color account for only 27.3 percent of all full-time staff positions, and just 1 in 10 foundation leaders are people of color.

The study also looked at how much foundations pay their staff. Ninety percent of the grant makers reported giving raises in 2019; the median salary increase was 3.5 percent. About 70 percent of foundations said they expected to, or already had, given raises in 2020.

A gender gap persists in the pay of female foundation leaders, the study found. The  median annual salary for women in leadership roles was $181,000, compared with $216,000 for their male counterparts.

What Works to Get the Attention of Big Donors Now


Glenn Marzano

As we enter the busy year-end fundraising season, most fundraisers still can’t meet in person with their donors. But as the pandemic enters its eight month, many groups are finding better ways to stay in touch, Lisa Schohl reports.

For instance, when Father Joe’s Villages, a homeless services charity in San Diego, took its gala online because of the coronavirus, the fundraisers did “door drops” for some key donors, says Wendy Endsley, associate director of development.

Endsley’s team left bottles of wine that the group would have served at the in-person gala on donors’ doorsteps with a note reminding them to participate in the online auction.

The nonprofit also began holding Zoom “investor calls” as a way to give contributors a “taste of being on site,” Endsley says.

The first call, in which the CEO and medical director talked about the group’s work responding to Covid, prompted a $10,000 gift from a new supporter. The calls were so well received that Father Joe’s expanded the format to feature program leaders at different locations, showcasing various aspects of its work.

Sunil Oommen, a fundraising consultant, says it’s important in such calls to stress why you need support today — and share data that proves it. For example, an advocacy organization could explain that it needs to pay staff members to help urge members of Congress to pass an emergency bill.

Hear directly from a big donor: Melanie Lundquist, a Giving Pledge donor, joined the Chronicle’s Maria Di Mento for a free online discussion you can replay now. Asked what nonprofits can do to persuade her to give, she says: Tell good stories about their successes and the people who benefit from their work. “It’s that kind of personal connection that moves me.”

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Associated Charities donates to non-profits – The Courier

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Dysart Education Foundation grateful for Cox Charities grant – Your Valley

Cox Charities recently announced its selection of 111 Arizona nonprofit organizations to receive nearly $560,000 in grant funding.

Most of the funds awarded came from the donations of Cox’s 3,100 Arizona employees. Since the program’s inception in 1996, Cox Charities has awarded approximately $8.5 million to local Arizona nonprofits that support youth and education. Click here to watch grant recipients receive their funds.

The Dysart Education Foundation was one of the grant recipients. Grants ranged from $2,500 to $10,000.

“Cox employees are deeply embedded in the communities we serve in Arizona and now more than ever, are committed to supporting and volunteering to make a difference,” said John Wolfe, senior vice president and southwest region manager for Cox Communications. “We are proud to stand behind so many nonprofit partners that are working hard during this challenging time to educate children and support families throughout Arizona.”

Astrid Valencia is just one of the Cox employees who are behind the donations to these Arizona non-profits.

“It’s quite a feeling to know that my company empowers us to give in a way that makes such a meaningful difference to such worthy nonprofits throughout Arizona,” Ms. Valencia said in a news release. “Through Cox Charities, we help ensure that our youth get the educational services they need and don’t fall through the cracks. That makes me extremely proud.”

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Which charities do the most good? Charity Navigator joins the effort to answer this crucial question. –

The world’s largest independent charity evaluator is called Charity Navigator, and it lists hundreds of thousands of US-based charities with programs around the world, providing information to help donors decide whether they want to give money there.

Charity Navigator provides insights into a nonprofit’s financial stability and adherence to best practices for accountability and transparency.

But until recently, it’s been unable to answer one big question donors frequently want to know: How much good will my money actually do?

This week, Charity Navigator announced that will change. It’s acquired a smaller, impact-focused charity evaluator called ImpactMatters, which estimates how far your money goes when you donate it, and is rolling out a new Impact and Results rating that lets people choose charities by how much they get done.

When it comes to giving, what really matters is how much good your money will do. But until pretty recently, there often wasn’t any answer to that question that an average donor could find. The Charity Navigator acquisition demonstrates that impact is becoming more and more of a priority in the nonprofit sector — and that seems likely to be very good for the world.

Figuring out how much good charities do

Charity Navigator’s new rating system is the latest move in a growing trend: greater awareness that nonprofits vary immensely in how much good they accomplish. Even within a specific category, ImpactMatters cofounder Elijah Goldberg told me, some soup kitchens feed far more people with the same amount of money; some homeless shelters are able to offer quality shelter to far more people.

Donors care about that. In surveys, most of them list effectiveness as one of their top concerns when giving to charity, and many people don’t give to charity out of a vague sense that most charities don’t work very well. Stories about ineffective charities are remembered by donors, who often give less — and effective charities that do a lot of good tend to make for less memorable stories.

“Impact has always been seen as the holy grail,” Michael Thatcher, the CEO of Charity Navigator, told me. “At the end of the day, we want to know what our money has done, not necessarily where it got spent.”

But that’s easier said than done. Measuring a charity’s impact is time intensive and requires answering lots of difficult questions — which of these studies on the effects of education programs on test scores later in life do we believe? If the charity has limited data, how far can we generalize from the data it does have? If it collects no data on many of its programs, what should be our base assumption about their impact?

Historically, donors who care about effectiveness haven’t had many options. A decade ago, no charity evaluators that tried to arrive at systematic estimates of impact existed. Then GiveWell was founded, changing the landscape: It researched which charities get you the most impact for your money in the world, and eventually identified lots of global health and development programs. (Disclosure: I donate to GiveWell every year.) Research suggests that it’s extraordinarily cost effective to benefit children by treating them for malaria and intestinal parasites, and that many programs fail to do as much good as just giving people money.

That’s valuable work, Goldberg told me, but it leaves a gap: if a person is determined to donate to ending homelessness in their community, then knowing the world’s highest impact charities doesn’t help them. But GiveWell’s research-intensive project can’t easily be translated to ranking the thousands and thousands of US nonprofits that donors might be looking up.

“The best site out there [for evaluating impact] is GiveWell, but they’re only naming the top 10” best charities, Dean Karlan, ImpactMatters cofounder and a professor of economics at Northwestern University, told me. “So for someone who wants to support someone in their local community or education internationally, we saw this big gaping hole.”

ImpactMatters was an attempt to change that. Their impact evaluation process doesn’t involve as much heavy-lifting as GiveWell’s. They don’t attempt to compare across cause areas — soup kitchens are evaluated by how many meals they give out and homeless shelters by how many nights of shelter they provide — and they’ve tried to build a process that can be used to evaluate thousands of organizations, so that every charity can get a rating for impact and then, ideally, be motivated to improve it.

Because it evaluated so many charities, its process was a natural fit for Charity Navigator’s, which tries to offer a rating for every nonprofit there is available data for. Historically, it has based those ratings on financial indicators, like how much money the charity has in the bank, how responsibly it spends that money, and how much is spent on “overhead,” or administrative expenses.

The reason donors care about any of those things, of course, is that they care about how much good their money is doing. Whether a charity is well run and how it spends its money are easy-to-measure indications that ideally provide a window into the question that really matters: whether your donation makes a difference in the world. But they’re very imperfect indicators. A charity might have high administrative expenses because it works in an area where legal compliance is really important but still be high impact. A charity might increase its overhead expenses by hiring a secretary, but be significantly more effective as a result of having freed up program officers to spend their time on programs.

ImpactMatters uses those financial indicators but tries to go beyond them. “We’ve always been focused on understanding the nonprofit’s mission and then assessing mission success,” Goldberg told me.

Where impact is easiest — and hardest — to measure

Evidence Action is one charity highlighted on Charity Navigator’s new splash page explaining how its impact evaluations work. “$0.50 provides clean water to a person for a year,” the rating reads. That’s clean, straightforward, and easy to understand. This style of impact evaluation works really well for charities that provide clean water, or medication, or food and shelter.

“The approach of ImpactMatters — of cost per outcome — makes a ton more sense in certain areas of the sector,” Thatcher told me. “We’re starting with what they have, which works incredibly well in a services area.”

To be eligible for an impact rating under the current system, a nonprofit has to dedicate the bulk of its resources to programs “directly delivered to beneficiaries and reasonable to expect impact measurement for.” Furthermore, the nonprofit must mostly deliver results to beneficiaries who are different from its donors — membership clubs, religious organizations, and many performing arts groups do not meet this criterion.

Evaluating the impact of charities who do less direct work is important, too. But it’s much harder. Say an advocacy organization for affordable housing lobbies local politicians, contributes to getting bills introduced which will build more houses, publishes an election slate which hundreds of people refer to when voting, and hires a lobbyist to make the case for housing at the statehouse. What is their impact? ImpactMatter’s current approach can’t answer that question — though it’s working on it.

What we’ve learned about what makes charities work

What does a high-impact charity look like? Goldberg said that in ImpactMatter’s research, it’s found that it’s only partially how well run a nonprofit is — much of the difference in impact is a consequence of choices that the nonprofit made about who it will consider as beneficiaries and how it sets eligibility for its programs.

For example, “Scholarship programs that do need-based scholarships tend to be significantly more effective than those that do merit-based,” Goldberg told me. “The choice of geography and beneficiary population and program type ends up defining a lot of how effective you are.”

That means that as a donor, going in wanting to work in a specific program type or in a specific area will limit the impact of your donation. Being willing to consider charities in a different program or geographic area are major ways to have your donation go much further. But the ImpactMatters and Charity Navigator teams I talked to emphasized that they didn’t want to build a tool that just told people “Your money could go further if you picked a different program.” Instead, they argue, donors should research the programs that interest and inspire them — keeping an eye on impact while they do so.

The aim of an impact evaluator is two-fold: First, to help donors find charities where their money will do a lot of good, which encourages donors to give more and makes sure that more is accomplished with their money. Second, ideally an impact evaluator gives charities tools to learn more about how they operate and how to accomplish their mission.

“This is a journey, and one of the things we’re trying to do with the rating system is really work with nonprofits to adjust, adapt, and improve,” Thatcher told me. “There’s an interesting problem that we have in giving, which is that we expect everyone to get it right the first time. The ideal there is that we learn from our mistakes.”

“The goal is, by having more transparent data, you can at least start looking and seeing some other food bank is twice as effective and call them up and see how they do that,” Karlan told me. Once nonprofits have ways to discuss and compare impact, they can start making more of the choices that make them highly effective.

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