Dr. Rachael Consoll, a volunteer
physician with Catholic Medical Mission Board,
meets with a woman and her baby
as part of the Safe Motherhood
Program in Enzo, South Sudan

Research charities thoroughly before making your donations

December 16, 2016
by John W. Mitchell, Senior Correspondent
As the economy continues to improve, more of us will be making charitable donations. According to the Philanthropy Outlook 2016 & 2017 report, researched and written by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, compared to 2015, the total giving rate is expected to rise above the five-year, 10-year and 25-year annualized averages through next year. The authors cite this trend as “sustained resilience during recent difficult economic periods.” Contributions from foundations, estates and corporations are expected to grow, while individual giving will be a bit more modest.

What should you look for in a charity? HealthCare Business News asked Kris Kewitsch, executive director of the nonprofit Charities Review Council (CRC) in St. Paul, Minnesota, for her recommendations. Her group works with local and regional charities to make sure these groups meet standards to qualify as trustworthy organizations. Kewitsch offered the following questions that should be answered:

• Is your contribution tax deductible? Just because an organization is labeled “nonprofit,” this does not necessarily mean that the contribution is tax-deductible. While there are a few exceptions, generally only IRS designated 501(c)3 organizations qualified. Also, the charity should make its IRS 990 form readily available to ensure transparency.
• What is the exact name of the charity? Many organizations have similar sounding names, but may not be the charity to which you intend to donate.
• How does the charity use your contribution? CRC recommends that at least 70 percent of a charity’s expenses should be used for program service. Make sure fundraising, salary and other operating expenses are reasonable.
• Is the organization registered by federal, state and/or local authorities? To solicit you for donations, most non-church organizations with a yearly income of $25,000 or greater must file annually with the IRS.
• What is the charity’s mission and does it get results? Different charities attack the same problem from different angles. For example, three cancer charities may have three very different programs. This could include: making research grants to scientists; publishing pamphlets on a healthy lifestyle; or providing free mammograms to low-income women. What do you want your donation to accomplish? Can the charity offer evidence that it is achieving results and making a difference?
• Where do you want your donation to make a difference? Find out the geographic area where the charity operates, whether it is local, regional, national or global. And finally, research the charity before you give. Charity scams are not infrequent. In addition to doing a news search, there are charity rating services sites such as CRC, Consumer Reports and Charity Navigator.

HCB News asked Sandra Miniutti, vice president of marketing at Charity Navigator, how they compile their “Top Ten” list, five of which are health care-related and included at the end of this story. She said Charity Navigator rates the financial health, accountability and transparency of over 8,000 charities. The charities that are listed in this story are pulled from the list of 8,000. Specifically, for this list, the charities described must have a 4-star rating, a budget that exceeds $100 million and at least $65 million in net assets. These charities are household names, in part, because of their exceptional financial management, no easy feat considering the scope and size of their operations.

“Charitable givers should feel confident that the charities on this list will put their donations to good use,” said Miniutti. “And beyond this small list, donors can use our free site, www.charitynavigator.org, to find more charities that match their philanthropic passions and that are worthy of their trust and support.” She added that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, some charities receive half their annual donations.

According to the National Center of Charitable Statistics, there are more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations registered in the U.S. Nonprofits’ share of gross domestic product amounted to just slightly more than 5 percent in 2014. The following list is not intended to be all-inclusive and these charities are presented in alphabetical order. None of these nonprofits are endorsed by HCB News. It’s up to each person to complete due diligence as outlined above.

Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.
High-rated Charity, Consumer Reports — The mission of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) is “to provide optimal care and services to individuals confronting dementia, and to their caregivers and families through our member organizations dedicated to improving quality of life.” AFA unites more than 2,600 member organizations from coast to coast that are dedicated to meeting the educational, social, emotional and practical needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related illnesses, and their caregivers and families. https://www.alzfdn.org/

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
High-rated Charity, Consumer Reports— The mission of AFSP saves lives and brings hope to those affected by suicide. The group has set a goal to reduce the annual suicide rate in the U.S. by 2025. The group focuses on several core strategies, including: to fund scientific research; public and professional education; legislative action; and to provide support for survivors and people at risk for suicide. https://afsp.org/

American Kidney Fund. High-rated Charity, Consumer Reports — The American Kidney Fund is the nation’s leading nonprofit working on behalf of the 31 million Americans with kidney disease. Their mission is to help people fight kidney disease and live healthier lives. They fulfill that mission by providing a complete spectrum of programs and services, including: prevention activities; top-rated health educational resources; and direct financial assistance enabling one in five U.S. dialysis patients to access lifesaving medical care, including dialysis and transplantation. http://www.kidneyfund.org/about-us/

Americares. Ranked #5 on Ten Best Charities, Charity Navigator — Since its founding in 1979, Americares has delivered more than $12 billion in quality medical aid and innovative health programs to 164 countries, including the U.S. Their programs include global and domestic access to medicine and medical services. According to Americares, the group is “the largest provider of medical aid to the U.S. health care safety net.” http://www.americares.org/

Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
High-rated Charity, Consumer Reports — The mission of the BCRF is to prevent and cure breast cancer by advancing the world’s most promising research. Breast cancer has no boundaries. It is the leading cause of cancer death in the world’s poorest countries and the second-leading cause of cancer death in American women. The developing world is experiencing higher mortality rates than ever before due to a lack of screening and access to treatment. The group also works to right disparities in the U.S., such as social and economic factors that create barriers to proper diagnosis and care. https://www.bcrfcure.org/

Catholic Medical Mission Board. Ranked #6 on Ten Best Charities, Charity Navigator
— Improving the health of women and children in disadvantaged communities through its Helping Heal, Capacity Building and Maternal and Child Health Services programs. https://cmmb.org/

Children’s Cancer Research Fund. Meets Standard, CRC — The group’s mission is to cure childhood cancer by investing in the most effective research, collaborating with the most talented minds, inspiring and educating advocates worldwide to take action and supporting families. http://www.childrenscancer.org/

Direct Relief. Ranked #1 on Ten Best Charities, Charity Navigator — Humanitarian medical relief, supplies and grants. Direct Relief’s medical assistance programs equip health professionals working in resource-poor communities to meet the challenges of diagnosing, treating and caring for people without regard to politics, religion, gender, race or ability to pay. https://www.directrelief.org/focus/

Michael J. Fox Foundation. High-rated Charity, Consumer Reports — The Michael
J. Fox Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease through an aggressively funded research agenda and to ensuring the development of improved therapies for those living with Parkinson’s. https://www.michaeljfox.org/foundation/promise.html?navid=our-promise

The Rotary Foundation. Ranked #3 on Ten Best Charities, Charity Navigator — The
Rotary Foundation transforms donations into projects that change lives both close to home and around the world. As the charitable arm of Rotary, the group taps into a global network of Rotarians who invest their time, money and expertise into its priorities, such as eradicating polio and promoting peace. https://www.rotary.org/myrotary/en/rotary-foundation

Samaritan’s Purse. Ranked #4 on Ten Best Charities, Charity Navigator — Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world. Since 1970, Samaritan’s Purse has helped meet the needs of people who are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease and famine.
https: //www.samaritanspurse.org/our-ministry/about-us/