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8 Local Charities Win Top Marks

But rating service's latest report knocks two Denver groups

Rocky Mountain News

November 13, 2002


By Allison Linn

A national charity rating service gave eight of the 26 Denver charities it studied its top ranking in a report released Tuesday.

But the Charity Navigator gave Denver's Cable Center its lowest ranking. The Denver cable industry museum said it received a low score chiefly because it hasn't yet launched most of its programs.

The rating service uses publicly available tax forms to evaluate the financial health of philanthropic organizations. The latest study was based mostly on fiscal year 2001 tax reports, and updated a previous study released in June.

The highest-ranked area charities included the Denver Foundation, the Denver Zoo and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Promise Keepers was the only other Denver charity to receive the lowest rating.

The service scores philanthropies based on several broad criteria, including how much is spent per dollar raised, what percentage of funds goes to programs versus administrative and fund-raising expenses, and the organization's long-term financial health. It then rates organizations from one to four, with four being the best rating.

Kyle Waide, deputy director of the Charity Navigator, said the The Cable Center received the lowest rating because it spends a relatively high percentage of its money on fund-raising and administrative expenses, despite having already raised millions of dollars. "They're doing a lot more fund-raising than perhaps they need to," Waide said.

But Jim O'Brien, president of The Cable Center, said the cable museum's administrative and fund-raising expenses are relatively high because it hasn't opened to the public or launched most of its programs.

"We're still in startup mode," he said.

The state-of-the-art museum and educational facility is scheduled to open fully next year, he said.

The Cable Center continues to raise funds aggressively, O'Brien added, because it hopes to raise all the money it needs before opening, rather than having ongoing fund- raisers in the coming years.

O'Brien praised the Charity Navigator as a useful tool for donors, but said he hopes it will eventually look more closely at other factors, such as the charity's phase of operation. He also said he expects The Cable Center's ranking to improve once its programs launch.

"Ten years from now if we have a 'one' rating, then there's something wrong - or even five years from now," O'Brien said.

The Native American Rights Fund, which scored a "one" in the Charity Navigator's June report, based on 2000 data, was bumped up to a "three" in the latest report, based on 2001 data.

Mary Lu Prosser, director of development for the Boulder charity, said the organization likely saw its performance improve in 2001 because it received a large bequest. In 2000, Prosser added, its fund-raising numbers dropped because it lost some large donors.

For a full list of how Denver charities were ranked, go to www.charitynavigator.org

linna@RockyMountainNews.com or (303) 892-2544
Copyright 2002, Rocky Mountain News. All Rights Reserved.

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