Ah, to have the problems of the rich and famous. Just imagine waking up and wondering which shiny, fast car you should tell the driver to use today. Or maybe you'd be forced to go shopping for yet another lavish, designer gown to wear down the red carpet.
Hollywood stars, however, aren't totally immune from the problems that plague us all. Here's one bothering Angelina Jolie: She may be filing a lawsuit against the head of a Cambodian aid group because, she says, he stole hundreds of thousands of dollars she donated for forest conservation.
No one likes to feel fleeced, even if they have millions of dollars to spare.
If you're looking for a worthy charity to support -- or maybe you're thinking about nominating one for this year's Foolanthropy drive -- there are some sources you can use to find out whether the charity puts most of its dollars toward its mission.
Charity Navigator offers a rating for thousands of charities, and breaks down how much money the charity uses on programs, as compared to administration and fundraising. It also compares a charity to other "peers" pursuing the same mission. You have to register with the site to get access to historical data and to create a charity portfolio, but the services are still free.
You can read all about how Charity Navigator calculates its ratings on the website. You'll also find tons of tips for donors, articles written by industry experts, and a bunch of top 10 lists, like "10 Charities in Deep Financial Trouble."
- Another website, GuideStar, requires users to register to get access to their database of nonprofit organizations. Once registered, you can search the database for a charity and find general information about its location, mission, and programs.
You can also look at the three most recent Form 990s that the charity filed with the IRS. Those forms let you see some of the charities' financials in detail (maybe too much detail for those of us not accustomed to deciphering tax forms). Charities are asked to list their revenue, expenses, and changes in net assets, make a statement of expenses, and answer a million other questions.
To get access to GuideStar's other charity information, such as lists of boards of directors and financial details, you have to buy a subscription to one of their services.
- The BBB Wise Giving Alliance evaluates national charities based on a set of standards that they developed with the Better Business Bureau, charities, accountants, grant makers, corporate contributors, government agencies, and others. The evaluations look at how charities govern their organizations and spend their money, as well as their truthfulness and willingness to disclose information to the public.
The reports lay out a charity's financials in pretty clear detail, making it easy to see how much money a charity spent on each of its programmatic goals, as well as how much money went to administration and fundraising.
And, in addition to all that, you can always ask the charity for more information. Some make all this information and more available to the public and potential donors.
Our Foolanthropy campaign sets some pretty high standards for charities that get picked for the annual fundraising drive. Requirements include having sound financials (without excessive overhead or lavish CEO compensation), and being run by qualified experts. Good tips for everyone considering a donation who wants to know their money will support the cause.
If you know of a charity that's doing great work, head on over to the Foolanthropy discussion board and nominate them to be a recipient. Then you can spend a little time worrying about how Hollywood stars cope with all their travails.
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