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How To Pick A Charity that You Can Believe in

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How To Pick A Charity that You Can Believe in

With many charity organizations available, it is vital that you know how to pick the charity that you would support. In this article, Julie Jason gives us a guideline on how you can choose a charity. Read on to find out how to pick a charity.

How To Pick A Charity that You Can Believe in

Here are some questions to ask charities


Last week, we talked about the 9,048 charities rated by Charity Navigator. Those organizations “depend on support from individual contributors and foundations.” Others, such as those that provide services, are not rated.

Leaving ratings aside, let me share some additional thoughts on how to pick a charity that you can believe in and stand behind for a long time.

The quotes below are directly from Charity Navigator’s “Questions To Ask Charities Before Donating“.

My comments are based on my experiences on a few nonprofit boards over the years and a three-year volunteer stint as the state of Connecticut’s representative to the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, “the federal advisory committee charged with providing taxpayer suggestions to improve IRS customer service.”

1. “What is your organization’s mission?

If a charity struggles in explaining its mission and its programs, it will probably struggle in delivering those programs. Healthy organizations know exactly who they are, what they do, and why they are needed.”

Very well said. This insight applies to any venture, including for-profit businesses.

2. “What are your organization’s goals?

Goals are a necessary tool to measure success. Without establishing clear goals, it’s challenging to measure success. If a charity cannot communicate its goals, both short and long term, it is difficult for a donor to know what the charity is working towards.”

Again, who can disagree? Occasionally, serendipity can lead to a successful outcome. But you can’t run an organization that routinely delivers good outcomes without goals and metrics. Once more, this rule applies to all ventures.

3. “What progress is your organization making toward its goals?

Ask your organization what it has done to make the issue it confronts better. Can the organization demonstrate how their actions have impacted their progress?”

Actions speak louder than words.

4. “What sources are available to increase my confidence in your work?

Our research has shown that [the] majority of charities are responsible, honest, and well-managed. Healthy charities demonstrate transparency. Documents such as the organization’s form 990 and audited financial statement should be readily available for donors to review.”

Good advice. It is essential for a donor to understand how the organization will use his or her funds.

While I’m not an expert on charities by any means, getting answers to some big-picture questions will certainly help identify whether you believe in the organization’s mission and how it intends to execute it with the help of your donation.

Before leaving the discussion of resources, let me give you one more: the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance (BBB WGA), found at www. give.org.
BBB WGA reports on 1,300 national charities. About half of the 112 Better Business Bureaus in the U.S. and Canada also report on about 10,000 local charities.

Give.org lists 20 standards in these categories: governance and oversight, measuring effectiveness, finances, and solicitations and informational materials.

Then the site concludes: “Meets Standards,” “Standards Not Met,” “Did Not Disclose,” “Unable to Verify” or “Review in Progress.”

An example is the American Red Cross, earning a “Meets Standards” on all 20 elements. The site also lists four “Complaints processed by the BBB in the last 36 months,” each of which is categorized by type and shown as “addressed.”

Finally, let me add a comment from a physician who chaired major gifts for almost three decades for a Connecticut hospital:

“Ask yourself if you are diluting your efforts by donating to multiple charities. Could you accomplish more by focusing on just a few?”

If you believe the latter is a better option, research of the type we’ve been discussing over the past two weeks will help you concentrate on causes you can support with confidence and passion.

A worthwhile consideration indeed.

* * *
Julie Jason, JD, LLM, a personal money manager (Jackson, Grant of Stamford, Conn.) and award-winning author, welcomes your questions/comments ([email protected]). To hear Julie speak, visit www.juliejason.com/events.

(c) 2017 Julie Jason.
Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.

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Business

Ackman’s Hot Streak Continues, Dumps Berkshire, Says ‘We Can Be More Nimble’

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Ackman’s Hot Streak Continues, Dumps Berkshire, Says ‘We Can Be More Nimble’

Bill Ackman’s hot streak continues. This comes after he announced that his Pershing Square hedge fund has returned an average of 25% this year. It also trounces the average hedge fund return of -7%. Additionally, this reveals that it sold its $1 billion stake in Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway. The fund first invested in Berkshire less than a year ago and only weeks took a larger stake in the conglomerate.

Completely exiting the Berkshire position surprised many on Wall Street, as Ackman has long admired Buffett as a mentor. He recently said that Buffett had built Berkshire “to withstand a global economic shock like this one.”

It appears that Ackman, like many, may have felt frustrated by the lack of activity from Berkshire during the recent market downswing. Berkshire’s cash balance has ballooned to $137 billion. Many, including Ackman, had likely expected a portion of that cash to be used to scoop up bargains during the late-February selloff. The said selloff took markets down nearly 30%.

Instead, Berkshire stood pat, and that appears to have been enough for Ackman to pull the plug on his investment. While discussing the exit, Ackman said that due to Pershing’s smaller size compared to Berkshire, “we can be much more nimble… and so our view was generally we should take advantage of that nimbleness, preserve some extra liquidity in the event that prices get more attractive again.”

Pershing Square’s success over the last two years had thrust Ackman back into the spotlight. This, perhaps, turned the chapter on a period where he became more famous for his misses than his home runs.

He was invested in Valeant Pharmaceuticals as it collapsed. He also famously squabbled on live TV with fellow billionaire Carl Icahn over Herbalife. Then, he gave a nearly 3-hour-long presentation explaining why he thought the company runs as a pyramid scheme. He finally exited his $1 billion short position at a loss.

Ackman’s current hot streak started last year, when Pershing Square returned 58.1%. This is its best annual return since the hedge fund was founded in 2004. After years of letting others make the firm’s investment decisions, Ackman took back the reins in 2018 with a back-to-basics strategy he learned from Buffett.

He returned the fund to a strategy that invests in simple, predictable, cash flow positive companies. He said, “It’s very hard to lose money by buying great businesses if you pay a fair price. For a while there, we forgot that our main job was to make money, so we woke up, and now we’re back in the money making business.”

Making money is exactly what Ackman did earlier this year. He did so with “the single best trade of all-time,” as what many calls it. He correctly predicted that the coronavirus would wreak havoc on our economy. Because of this, Ackman made a $27 million bet that netted his firm a $2.6 billion profit in less than two months as the markets crashed.

Now, his war chest is full again. It appears that Ackman is ready to buy should asset prices come down again.

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As Airlines Suffer, American Most Likely To File Bankruptcy

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As Airlines Suffer, American Most Likely To File Bankruptcy

A few weeks ago, Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun startled the airline sector when he said a major airline would go bankrupt by Halloween.

“I don’t want to get too predictive on that subject. But yes, most likely,” Calhoun said. “Something will happen when September comes around.”

Airline stocks plunged as investors and analysts scrambled to determine which airline became most vulnerable.

RapidRatings, a risk assessment firm, recently completed a comprehensive stress test on the major U.S. airlines. They used dozens of variables including debt loads, cash flow analysis, and a loss of at least 15% of revenue.

American Airlines To Suffer The Most?

We may never know which airline that Calhoun was alluding to. Although, RapidRatings’ analysis says that American Airlines is the most likely to go bankrupt in the coming months.

The company also looked at Delta, United and Southwest, but none of them are in such dire circumstances as American.

In an interview with Yahoo Finance, RapidRatings CEO James Gellert said, “American is the most at risk and that’s it in every way you look at it. American stands out as the weakest of this cohort.”

The stress tests run by RapidRatings produce both a short term financial health rating (FHR) and long term core health score (CHS). According to RapidRatings, the FHR measures a company’s short-term resiliency and default risk. Meanwhile the CHS analyzes risk and company efficiency over a three year period. A score lower than 40 means a company is at risk of failing.

Gellert says the analysis has more than a decade of proven results. Also, “over 90% of companies that failed have been rated 40 and below on our scales.”

The stress tests found that American was the weakest U.S. airline going into the recent pandemic. It has a financial health rating of 59 and core health score of 66.

As the pandemic unfolded and air travel plunged 90%, American’s FHR score plunged to 29. Meanwhile, its CHS score fell to 27.
Gellert added that “I would be quite certain that is the airline in the crosshairs of the Boeing comment.”

The Future Of American

American, in response to the sub-40 stress test scores, said in a statement that it was “focused on rightsizing the airline for the current environment, and plan to reduce our 2020 operating and capital expenditures by more than $12 billion.”

Analysts, however, are starting to smell blood in the water. Cowen equity research analyst Helane Becker recently told Yahoo Finance, “American’s liquidity position is dependent on government aid, bucking the trends we’ve seen from other airlines. The company is receiving a total of $10.6 billion … [and] we expect another capital raise” in the 3rd quarter.”

Savanthi Syth, an equity analyst at Raymond James, also agrees American will need more capital to weather the storm. “I mean, if you look at the cash on hand that’s definitely the case,” Syth said. American has six months of cash on hand, United has 10 months, Delta has 12, and Southwest has almost 19 months, according to Raymond James.

Syth added, “I don’t think bankruptcy is a foregone conclusion… it’s just going to take longer for American to kind of dig themselves out of this kind of debt burden, and therefore equity could be challenged in the near term.”

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Sorry AOC, Billionaires Haven’t Made $434B During Pandemic

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Sorry AOC, Billionaires Haven’t Made $434B During Pandemic

Nation’s Billionaire’s See Net Worth Jump $434B in First Two Months of Pandemic

It was an eye-opening headline, and fairly drew the frustrations of a lot of us. This is especially true for the 38+ million Americans who have lost their jobs since the coronavirus pandemic shut down. Our country has been at it a little more than two months ago.

How dare they get richer while we suffer?

Chuck Collins, director of the Institute for Policy Studies Program on Inequality, the co-author of the report, expressed his piece. He said, “The surge in billionaire wealth during a global pandemic underscores the grotesque nature of unequal sacrifice.”

Meanwhile, Frank Clemente, the executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness which co-authored the study, also shared his opinion. He said, “The pandemic has revealed the deadly consequences of America’s yawning wealth gap, and billionaires are the glaring symbol of that economic inequality.”

Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez didn’t want to miss the opportunity to inject her brand of socialism into the public discourse. “Really great system we got here. Can’t imagine why anyone would question how beneficial or sustainable it is for the working class,” she tweeted. This is in response to CNBC running the headline.

The Study’s Flaws

The top five US billionaires explicitly mentioned in the article are all Democrats. These include Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Larry Ellison. But setting that irony aside, the problem is that the article is simply dishonest, points out MarketWatch columnist Steve Goldstein.

“The study… examines billionaires’ wealth between March 18 — the rough start date of the pandemic shutdown, when most federal and state economic restrictions were in place — and May 19. It relied on the Forbes’ billionaire list, which itself is built around stock-market performance.”

The flaw, as Goldstein points out, is that the beginning and end dates used for the study are incorrect.

“Think about that in the market context. The pandemic did not start March 18 (nor, of course, had it ended on May 19), and certainly market concerns about the pandemic did not start March 18. Far from it.”

He says that to see a true picture of how much money the billionaires made – or lost – during the pandemic, they need to expand the date range.

“A more logical way to think about whether billionaires got richer, or not, is to think about the performance from the Feb. 19 peak in the market, after which more investors began to get concerned by the novel virus. You then get to see who got richer even in the face of the crippling economic blow.”

If you use this revised date range, Goldstein says the truth is that billionaires have actually lost money since the market peaked and the pandemic began

“Cumulatively, the top 50 billionaires lost $232 billion between the market’s peak and this Tuesday. If the remaining billionaires on the Forbes list lost wealth at the same roughly 12.5% rate that the top 50 experienced, that’s another $200 billion–plus wiped out.”

So while it’s easy to run a headline that bashes billionaires, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

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