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Charity Navigator Releases New API

If you are a frequent reader of this blog, you probably know already that Craig Newmark is a big fan of Charity Navigator. Charity Navigator exists to guide intelligent giving. We do that by providing free access to ratings of the 5,500 large- and mid-size charities that receive roughly half of all private contributions (excluding houses of worship which do not file an annual informational report to the IRS – called a 990 form) made in the US each year. Last year alone, over 3 million users visited our website nearly 5 million times, giving Charity Navigator influence over somewhere between $5 and $10 billion of charitable donations. While this makes us far and away the largest and most utilized charity rating service that exists anywhere, it currently influences no more than 5% of the roughly $200 billion donated annually in America.

Last year, Charity Navigator went to Craig Newmark for help to remedy that problem. We recognized that the online world was changing and that we could have more influence if our expert analysis was readily accessible on other platforms and applications. We put our heads together, with Craig, and determined that an API (Application Programming Interface) would lower barriers to and expand the reach of our data. Wanting to see more givers make smarter choices, thereby driving increased social investment capital to higher performing nonprofits, Craig agreed to fund the creation of the API.

Today, we're excited to announce that our API is complete and out of a successful period of Beta testing. The API allows developers to find vetted charities based on keyword, category, location, regions served, inclusion in Charity Navigator’s popular 10 lists, and a variety of other data points. This initial offering provides an open database of information on 5,500 charities of all types, in all regions of our country, and whose work impacts all corners of the globe. In fact, this API is the largest data-set of the Financial Health and Accountability & Transparency of US charities. But within the next few years, the tool will be expanded further to include ratings on 10,000 charities (which garner about 70% of all private contributions made in the US each year) as well as, at least, basic information
Charity Navigator already receives a robust level of requests for our API from donor advised funds, philanthropic advisors to entrepreneurs looking to give back as their businesses grow as well as websites of all kinds that have a charity donation portal. We offer two levels of access to the API, a premium service for established organizations that are looking for a fully customizable tool and a free version (subject to volume usage fees) that is perfect for start-ups. Go now to the API page on Charity Navigator’s website to learn more about the API’s features and to register for access to the tool.on every US-based nonprofit (that is 1.5 million organizations!).


Guest blog post by Ken Berger, President & CEO of Charity Navigator.

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Infographic: Most Important Law Protecting Internet Speech

Folks, there's this law called CDA 230 which is a major free speech protection on the Internet. It also protects much of the business on the Net, which involves engagement with regular people.  It's a really big deal. Maybe the most important law protecting Internet speech.

My team and I worked with the good folks at Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) to create an infographic explaining how CDA 230 really protects Internet speech.

A general theme might be that we do need some law in some areas, but it's really hard to get it done right in Washington, maybe just not possible during an election year. But it's still important to let people know about important laws like CDA 230. This affects both individuals and Internet Service Providers (ISPs), including bloggers – protecting them from liability for what their customers say while using their services.

“Congress got it fundamentally right in passing CDA 230,” said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman.  “Speech should not be left vulnerable to collateral threats aimed at providers who allow millions of people to speak and obtain information online.  Providing strong legal safeguards for Internet platforms ensures that as many people as possible have the opportunity to participate online.”

Here's what it's about, according to the hardworking folks at EFF: Section 230 refers to Section 230 of Title 47 of the United States Code (47 USC § 230). It was passed as part of the Communication Decency Act of 1996. Many aspects of the CDA were unconstitutional restrictions of freedom of speech (and, with EFF's help, were struck down by the Supreme Court), but this section survived and has been a valuable defense for people who run websites ever since.

If we lost this law it would probably destroy the Web as we know it. CDA 230’s made a huge contribution to the explosion of innovation and expression online, and we need it.

Game of Thrones guy, George R. R. Martin opposes attacks on voting rights

Sometimes a really good writer can really get to the point really well.

In his blog, George R. R. Martin says:

I am way too busy these days for long political rants.

But I would be remiss if I do not at least make passing mention of how depressed, disgusted, and, yes, angry I've become as I watch the ongoing attempts at voter suppression in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Iowa, and other states where Republicans and their Teabagger allies control key seats of power.

It is one thing to attempt to win elections. But trying to do so by denying the most basic and important right of any American citizen to hundreds and thousands of people, on entirely spurious grounds… that goes beyond reprehensible. That is despicable.

Aaron Sorkin's The Newsroom and the Triumph of Fictional Journalism

The Newsroom orbits around two characters, newsman Will McAvoy, who decides to risk all to do serious journalism, and his (muse? boss? leader?) MacKenzie McHale, who inspires him to do so.  (She's bravely played by the radiant Emily Mortimer, who suffers from the rare Avian Bone Syndrome.)

On one level the show is a kind of romantic screwball comedy, swirling around the (radiant) Mackenzie character, and it succeeds well on that level.

(Could be that the actual newsroom depicted is not realistic, and, y'know, I don't care so much. Is the real thing delivering the real product?)

More importantly, the show reminds us that the press is the immune system of democracy and that serious news requires serious ethical practice like checking the facts, no matter how dangerous.

The worst diseases, however, attack the immune system, so Really Bad People are trying to prevent the cure by undermining Will. No way to figure out how that'll turn out.

Seriously, I'm inspired by The Newsroom to Get Stuff Done, much like The West Wing continues to inspire me to Get a Great Deal of Stuff Done. West Wing also succeeded as a rom-com, with the (radiant) Donna Moss and the (radiant) Amy Parker.

Shouldn't be surprising, considering that the most ethical, trustworthy, and serious journalism is accomplished by two fictional newsmen, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. They survive attack by following the advice of Oscar Wilde: If you want to tell people the truth, make 'em laugh. Otherwise, they'll kill you.

However, Will and Mackenzie don't have that at their disposal, and must defend themselves, and the country, using other means.

Fictional characters of our culture often manage to overcome tremendous obstacles to Get a Lot Done, sometimes drawing on folklore or the paradigm of roleplaying games.

For example, there's the ongoing story of Craig of the craigslist, passing through multiple levels to join in the much greater Triumph of the Nerds:

  • he starts as a 1950's nerd, suffering the results of his own nerdliness
  • he travels the wilderness as the George Costanza of the nerds
  • having learned nothing, he reboots from a position of ignorance and innocence as the Forrest Gump of the Nerds
  • he champions the Nerdly cause by bridging Old School Nerds with their contemporaries, the Little Monsters, as the Lady GaGa of the Nerds
  • he must overcome the heaviest of Nerd burdens, must learn to communicate effectively as the Don Draper of the Nerds
  • thereupon he launches to give voice to faceless millions of Little Monsters, Nerds, and anyone who's never had a voice

The Triumph of the Nerds is propelled from below, by those faceless millions. And billions. That voice is given body by fictional journalists includng McAvoy, Stewart, and Colbert.

That means Getting Most of the Stuff Done in darkness, much like Vulcan ("live long and prosper"), knowing that much of the Stuff will never be visible, but, a nerd's gotta do what a nerd's gotta do.

Poynter conf on journalist ethics: let's jump the gun

Okay, I've been saying that the "press is the immune system of democracy" for a coupla years now.

A lot of this is motivated by conversations with people in media; they'd like to restore trustworthy behavior to news media, not in just a few pockets of it. I remind 'em that I'm not in the business, but I can help, maybe just a little.

Well, the Poynter Institute is a really big deal regarding trustworthy journalism, and they'll be running a conference on journalistic ethics in NYC this Autumn.  They haven't announced the date, but I figure this is a big issue, and I'll do what I can to make it really big, beyond merely funding it.

So, I'll be posting some of the big issues in journalistic trust and ethics suggested in years of talking with people in the business, using hashtag #PoynterJournoEthics.

For example, I've wondered what's the deal when you can see that a reporter knows when he's being lied to, but says that he has to "leave it there" and throw it back to the anchor.  That reinforces the lie, not so good.  One of the country's most trustworthy journalists, Jon Stewart, calls it the "CNN leaves it there" problem, and speaks way smarter about it than me.

more to come…