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Going to the Dogs

...and to others in need: Study shows Denver charities excel in distributing money to serve their main goals

Denver Post

July 9, 2003

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By Louis Aguilar
Denver Post Business Writer

A national study found that 34 local charities do an excellent job of spending their money to serve their main goals - whether it's the Denver Dumb Friends League saving animals, the Denver Foundation awarding grants to communities or the Colorado Energy Assistance Foundation helping low-income people pay their utility bills.

"Denver's charity community is very healthy," said Trent Stamp, executive director of Charity Navigator, the Mahwah, N.J.-based group that conducts the study each year. Charity Navigator examines tax records of 2,500 nonprofits in 20 metro areas for its study.

"(Denver) charities are sticking to the old-school mentality of 'raise a dollar, spend a dollar,"' Stamp said.

That's actually uncommon during a dour economy, he said.

"Many charities may raise a dollar and then save it because they have concerns of raising another dollar," he said.

Further, top charities in the Denver area are adding more programs and increasing revenue at a time when many groups are scaling back, according to the study. That makes Denver charities among the fastest growing in the nation.

Denverites are among the biggest supporters of animals. Only San Francisco has more charities devoted to animal welfare.

Denver charities don't have the deepest pockets or the largest offices, so the region ranks only ninth among the top 20 markets. Cleveland ranked as the top charity city.

But what the area lacks in size, it makes up in smart management. Denver's charities are among the most efficient, Stamp said.

Efficiency was measured by how much a charity spent on costs, such as overhead, administrative expenses and fund-raising. The less money spent on such costs, the more efficient the nonprofit.

Denver-area groups scored the second lowest in median administrative expenses - 8.2 percent of nonprofits' budgets are spent on such costs. Denver nonprofits also scored fifth lowest in fund-raising expense - about 5 percent of budgets go to such costs.

Denver charities are the fastest growing, with a median annual growth rate of 7.9 percent and 11.6 percent growth in programs.

Nine Denver charities received four-star rankings, the highest possible from Charity Navigator.

Those nonprofits are: Denver Foundation (grantmakers), Denver Zoo (animals), Denver Museum of Nature & Science (museum), Colorado Energy Assistance Foundation (utility aid to low-income residents), Caleb Project (religion), University of Denver (education), Denver Dumb Friends League (animals), Colorado Open Lands (environment), and American Indian College Fund (scholarships).

Two local charities, The Cable Center (cable TV museum) and Promise Keepers (religious causes), received one star rankings, which is the lowest possible grade.

 
 
   
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