United Way of Central Florida Recognized for Highest Levels of Excellence

Congratulations to chamber member, The United Way of Central Florida, for being rated at the highest levels of excellence for non-profits in the country. Read more in this article, reposted by from The Ledger.

Repost from The Ledger, published Wednesday, September 1o, 2014.

By 
THE LEDGER

United Way of Central Florida has been recognized by one of the nation’s leading charity watchdogs for excellence in fiscal accountability and financial health.

Based in Highland City, the local United Way that covers Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties earned four stars, the highest rating from New Jersey-based Charity Navigator, for fiscal year ending June 2013. It’s the third such honor for United Way in recent years.

Perhaps even more notable is the high numerical score United Way received since Charity Navigator’s switch in August to a new, 100-point ratings system. The former system rated charities on seven financial measures for a total score of 70.

The new system adds another 17 measures for accountability and transparency.

Under the new system, United Way of Central Florida garnered a score of 97.48, one of the highest compared with other United Ways in Florida awarded four stars by Charity Navigator.

“That should make their donors feel good,” said Sandra Miniutti, Charity Navigator’s vice president of marketing.

The scores are based on an analysis of a charity’s federal income tax filing, which is public information. Charity Navigator rates some 8,000 public charities, a slim portion of the nation’s 1.4 million nonprofits.

But those 8,000 receive half of all donations, Miniutti said, including dollars given to churches and other nonprofits whose tax filings are excluded from public disclosure because of religious exemptions.

Donors more and more target donations based on the guidance of Charity Navigator, CharityWatch, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance and other watchdog groups that offer critical financial data through easy-to-use websites.

In a sense, United Way is viewed by some as a reputable clearinghouse for a community’s nonprofits, primarily in the human services arena. The umbrella organization enlists volunteers who visit the agencies it supports to monitor efficiencies and scrutinize financials.

But Charity Navigator provides another layer of scrutiny independent of United Way, said Sherri Riccio-Diaz, a spokeswoman for United Way of Central Florida.

“It’s a good tool, if people trust it,” she said. “It’s great that there are organizations aggregating these data.”

Charity Navigator adopted a 100-point scorecard to streamline its methodology. Charities earn four stars for a score of between 90 and 100, while 80 to 89 earns three stars and so on. A score of 55 or lower garners no stars.

In a recent interview with The NonProfit Times, Ken Berger, Charity Navigator’s president and CEO, said his company will be adding even more measures in coming months that focus on effectiveness and communication. For instance, does the charity publish evaluation reports that cover the results of its programs at least every five years?

For fiscal year 2012-13, United Way of Central Florida scored higher than its counterparts, marginally besting the Fort Myers-based United Way of Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee counties, which garnered an overall score of 97.

At a glance, the Charity Navigator tool shows the percentage agencies spend on program services, compared to administrative and fundraising expenses.

United Way of Central Florida reported fiscal year 2012-13 revenues, including grants and other income, of $11.9 million, of which 84.3 percent went to program services, while 7.3 percent was spent on administration and 8.4 percent on fundraising expenses.

United Way of Central Florida has a long-term reputation for being a good agency — congratulations to them,” said Cliff Smith, president of UnitedWay in Fort Myers. “We should be completely transparent. We should be an open book.”

Eric Pera can be reached at eric.pera@theledger.com or 863-802-7528. See original posting here: http://www.theledger.com/article/20140910/NEWS/140919999/1338/news00?Title=United-Way-of-Central-Florida-Captures-Highest-Rating

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