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Metro Charities Get High Marks

Star Tribune

July 23, 2003

By Robert Franklin

Large nonprofits in the Twin Cities are among the nation's most efficient in spending money on their programs, a national charity evaluator reported Tuesday.

The small sampling -- 48 charities surveyed in Minneapolis and St. Paul -- devoted a median amount of 84.4 percent of spending to their programs as opposed to fundraising and administration, according to a survey last month by Charity Navigator. Only Houston and Cleveland finished higher.

"The charities in the Twin Cities are large, diverse, efficient, well funded and highly rated," said Kyle Waide, the organization's deputy director.

Charity Navigator surveyed the Form 990 financial returns filed with the Internal Revenue Service by 2,500 large charities in 20 metro areas (the IRS expects more than 400,000 such returns to be filed this year).

Rich Cowles, executive director of the Charities Review Council, a nonprofit Minnesota charities evaluator, called the statistics inadequate. His group promotes a set of standards that include governance and fundraising practices as well as finances, for instance.

Nevertheless, he said, "My reaction is that there are good reasons to believe that nonprofits in Minnesota are more effective and efficient, because of all the internationally heralded resources for nonprofits [here]."

Other findings of the Charity Navigator survey include:

  • Twin Cities charities reported the sixth-lowest fundraising expenses at 7 percent of money raised, but also ranked No. 18 in median chief executives' salaries at $119,227.
  • The Twin Cities area has the second-highest concentration of arts groups, behind Philadelphia.
  • The area ranks fourth highest -- behind Houston, Boston and Baltimore -- on Charity Navigator's over-all financial rankings. The organization ranks charities on organizational efficiency and capacity and posts the results online.

Robert Franklin is at rfranklin@startribune.com.

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