Tuesday, April 14, 2015

NOT a Farewell Message to Readers of Ken's Commentary

My tenure as president & CEO of Charity Navigator ended on 3-30-15. It was an amicable and mutually agreed upon departure based upon each party wanting to move in a different direction.  I am still involved with the organization, most immediately planning to finish a book I have been co-writing with Dr. Robert Penna about the unique perspective, tools, resources and leverage for positive change that CN offers the nonprofit sector.

My plan is to continue to work in some capacity to help donors, foundations, corporations, government, nonprofits and social businesses to do their best to help people and communities. In addition, I plan to keep this blog going with my thoughts and observations on the social sector (all those individuals and organizations dedicated to the greater good).

Thanks again for your continued interest in what I have to say. It’s been an honor and a privilege to have this blog as a place to chronicle my observations and efforts to nurture and help win the battle for the soul of the social sector!


P.S. I have a radio interview this week I intend to post here, as well as an article in the making on social businesses and the challenges of "bigness" in trying to do social good. Onward!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Battle for the Soul of the Social Sector

Ken Berger spoke at an event hosted by the NYU Reynolds Program in Social Entrepreneurship in October 2014.

Friday, February 20, 2015

George W. Bush Institute

Ken Berger presented at the George W. Bush Institute last week on The Overhead Myth.

The entire 5 hour event can be found below. The panel he spoke on begins 2 hours and 30 minutes in. His preliminary remarks occur at 2 hours and 45 minutes in.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Job Opening at Charity Navigator

This past November, following a very detailed and thoughtful planning process, the Board of Charity Navigator approved a significant plan to scale up the operations of our organization. Here are some of the important goals we have set:
  1. Doubling the number of charities we rate to 10,000 by the end of 2016.*
  2. Rating those 10,000 charities on CN 3.0 by the end of 2016.**
  3. Significantly improving our users’ experience of our web site to make it more easy to use than ever with state of the art technology.
  4. Continuously improve our operations in all areas to be a role model charity and a high performing organization.
  5. Innovate and create new offerings on our site with the goals of helping as many donors as we can and driving more money to the highest performing charities.
To achieve these ambitious goals, we intend to double our staff size by the end of 2015.*** To that end, one of the most important roles to be filled as soon as possible is a Chief Operating Officer.

Please have a look at the Join Our Team page of our web site to read the job description and the ideal qualifications we are looking for. The posting will also direct candidates as to how to apply.

Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide in getting the best and brightest individuals to join our team so that we can do even more to meet our mission as a guide to intelligent giving! 
*We began the process in 2009. At that time we were rating 5500 organizations. As of this month, we are rating over 8,000.
**We began data gathering for CN 3.0 in January of 2013 and have thus far gathered the data on over 1,800 of the 10,000 charities we will have in our database by the end of 2016 when we will begin to rate charities on the new element to our rating system – results reporting.
***We are increasing the staff from 14 to 28 this year, as well as doubling our budget.

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 CharityNavigator.com, 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