Low Ranked Charity Not A Scam But – Skip Global Giving If You “Sleep-In” This Black Friday

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It’s a great idea: A small non-profit, Global Giving, challenges Americans to avoid the long lines and return to the true “Giving Spirit” of the holidays. But is it? Is it with, what, according to Charity Navigator, the well-respected non-profit watch dog, NOT a top notch company…in fact, the lowest ranked of similar organizations! Global Giving, according to Market Watch is encouraging shoppers to give a donation instead of a gift:

To help Americans rediscover the true meaning of the holidays AND find a gift for “the person who has everything,” [Global Giving] — “the Amazon of philanthropy” — is launching the “Great American Sleep-In”: a challenge to get more Americans to spend time with their loved ones and avoid the mall traffic this “Black Friday” by giving a gift that gives back … all from the comfort of their own home…. This year, instead of spending $20 on another tie, how about providing baby bottles to mothers in Brooklyn, immunizing mothers and children in India or sending a child to school in Uganda?

The problem is, that the organization running this promotion — and don’t be fooled for a minute, this is a promotion — may not be such a great sponsor.  After a bit of research, I’m not sure I want to give them my donation. This, from their own site, troubles me:

All donations go through the GlobalGiving Foundation, a registered 501(c)3 organization, which receives a nominal 10% fee. This helps cover the cost of operating the marketplace – finding and researching projects, attracting donors, and building our website.

Having spent a number of years in the non-profit world I can tell you that 10% is actually a fairly high take for operating expenses. In reality the numbers are worse: only 80.7% of their revenue goes to program expenses. That means for every dollar you donate only 80.7 cents makes its way to the programs that need it.  Finally, and more tellingly, Charity Navigator, the well-respected non-profit watch dog, only gives them 3 out of 4 possible stars.  A concern since achieving a 4-star isn’t incredibly hard to achieve.

According to Charity Navigator’s glossary three stars is considered “good.”  However, Global Giving ranks THE LOWEST among listed “charities doing similar kinds of work.”

I wouldn’t call it a scam…more likely its simply fiscal irresponsibility.  And fiscal irresponsibility can be the result of inexperienced management (the generous explanation) or indulgence on the part of management (i.e. they want unreasonably high salaries, nice offices, fancy PR agencies, etc…). I would hesitate to scream scam, but I am disturbed by the lack of vetting I see out there and I am more disturbed that organizations like The Washington Post, The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune are helping to promote an organization which is…well, simply not trying hard enough.

So, what’s a girl to do? I think we should all embrace the “Sleep In” but instead of sending our donations to GlobalGiving, send them to a higher ranked, 4-star charity doing similar work:

Direct Relief International
The Global Fund For Children
Grassroots International

There are so many really terrific 4-star non-profits out there to donate to this holiday. A good suggestion might be for everyone to “shop” at the old standby Unicef.  Their Unicef’s Inspired Gifts program is awesome and they are a 4-star org!

There, now I can actually sleep well when I sleep in next Friday.

Photo by Charles Thompson.  Also, this post was written with much help from MC Milker.