5 Things About Charities That Just Aren't True

Low overhead isn't always a sign of greatness
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 28, 2012 1:04 PM CST
5 Things About Charities That Just Aren't True
The Sugar Bowl is ... a charity!   (?)

The fiscal cliff isn't the only looming financial deadline. Just a few days remain to give to charity in 2012, and Ken Stern would prefer you not make your decision "hastily, based on poor information." Writing for the Washington Post, the former NPR exec and author of this upcoming book dispels five myths clouding the topic:

  1. It's not all about the poor: There are 1.1 million charities in America ... including Oregon's Renegade Roller Derby team, the All Colorado Beer Festival, and countless hospitals. Stern explains it's "astonishingly easy" to form a charity, with the IRS OKing 99.5% of applications from would-be charities.

  1. Low overhead is a sign of greatness: A number of charity raters favor those who put upward of 85% of their income toward services, with those using just a sliver of cash on expenses often seen as the best. But investing in things like research and training can make for stronger charities. To wit, Stern reminds us that the Red Cross' Hurricane Katrina and Sandy issues stemmed in part from inadequate investment "in the infrastructure necessary to handle complex emergency relief."
  2. Picking a great charity to give to is easy: "In fact, it is enormously difficult," writes Stern who, as example, points out that more than 60,000 charities have the word "veteran" in their names. His solution isn't the easiest: Work at it. "On average, Americans spend more time watching television in one day than they do researching charities in an entire year." Put the time in, review studies published by GiveWell, and look beyond famous leaders or catchy stories.
Click for two more myths, including the idea that nonprofits aren't profitable. (Read more charity stories.)

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