Friday, December 26, 2014

What's the Best Charity to Donate to?

Originally published on ABC7 on 12/16/2014

Donations typically spike as people reach into their wallets over the holidays. But before giving any money, consumers should see how their chosen charity is spending the money.

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County has earned a four-star rating, the highest possible, from, a non-profit group that evaluates charities on how efficiently they're managed and how wisely they spend donations. Read the full article here. 

10 Celebrity Charities: From Four-Stars to Flops

Originally published on CNBC on 12/19/2014.

Celebrities and charity. It's a hot topic for both good and bad reasons—on the part of celebrities and the public. Some celebrities just can't get enough of themselves, and some Americans just can't get enough of seeing celebrities dragged through the mud.

But when it comes to celebrities trying to do good, the results are actually all over the map, according to Ken Berger, the president and CEO of Charity Navigator, a watchdog organization that has developed a scoring system to rate charities on their governance and financial performance to better help the public invest in not just the right causes but well-run advocates. Read the full article here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Tricycle Tips for Giving to a Charity

Originally published on Linkedin on December 4, 2014. 

               Article cover image

The largest portion of charitable gifts are donated in the month of December each year, to over 1 million charities. Based on my thirty something years in the nonprofit sector and seven years evaluating their performance, I suggest this simple technique to think about how to be sure that the charity you are considering supporting is among the best. It can all be summed up in the image of a tricycle. Just as there are three wheels on a tricycle, there are questions to be answered by the charities covering three core dimensions of their performance to find the best among them. At Charity Navigator, we provide you with the help you need to get these questions answered. Here are a sampling of the questions:
1. Financial health (smaller back wheel) - Does the nonprofit follow financial management best practices and maintain adequate resources to be sustainable? Does the organization have a reasonable balance of allocations between program, administrative and fundraising expenses? Does the organization normally achieve break even or better in covering its expenses?
2. Governance * (smaller back wheel) - Does the organization have a truly independent board of adequate size and skills to oversee the organization and the CEO? Are their best practices being followed such as policies regarding whistle-blowers, conflict of interest and CEO compensation?
3. Results (bigger front wheel) - Does the nonprofit manage and measure its performance over time to continuously improve and assure that it is meeting its mission in a meaningful way?
The tricycle has two smaller back wheels and a big one in the front. The front wheel is the most important for moving forward and meeting the mission of the charity. In other words, it is critical that a charity can provide evidence of how it meets its mission and delivers meaningful results. However, results alone are not enough. Without good financial management, today's results can be tomorrows bankruptcy. Without good governance, today's results can be tomorrows unethical leadership scandal. You need all three wheels to be humming along. Finally, you need someone at the steering wheel that is capable, passionate, ethical and focused on data driven high performance. They lead the staff and steer the organization forward and help give it the energy to move forward (pumping those pedals and steering in the right direction!).
Once you have evidence that all of these dimensions are in place, you can be much more confident the charity is among the very best! Once you know that, you can give with a great deal of confidence that your donation is going to effectively help the people and communities you care about. At the same time, your charity of choice can do a "wheelie" and you can be really be proud of the great work it is doing!
* At Charity Navigator, this dimension (or wheel) is called Accountability & Transparency.

Flickr/Albert Lynn

Monday, November 17, 2014

Pros and Cons of Checkout Donations

Ken Berger spoke with Gerri Willis on Fox Business News last night about checkout donations. They also discussed how to identify a high performing charity. 

Watch the Segment Now

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Next Ice Bucket Challenge is for the ALS Association Itself

Ken appeared in a segment on CBS This Morning on September 19th to discuss the potential ramifications of the ALS Association receiving a large influx of cash in a short period of time.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Bloomberg TV: What Will ALS Association Do With Ice Bucket Cash?

Ken Berger was on Bloomberg TV to discuss the ALS Association's challenge in spending the 100 million dollars worth of donations it has received via the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Life After Ice Buckets: ALS Group Faces $94 Million Challenge

Originally published on WNYC on 8/27/2014. 
The ALS ice bucket challenge continues to bring in huge donations this summer for efforts to cure and treat what's commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. As of today, the viral campaign has raised more than $94 million for the ALS Association. That's compared with $2.7 million raised by the group during the same time last year.
Now the association faces a challenge of its own: figuring out the best way to spend all that money. Read the transcript at