Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Which conservation group deserves your hard-earned dollars?

A co-worker asked my opinion earlier this week about a national conservation group and whether it deserves support from rank-and-file hunters. Without knowing the specific mission of the organization, I couldn’t offer the best advice, but I did suggest a starting point for investigating any nonprofit.

Charity Navigator is the nation’s largest charity evaluator, and it’s assessed more than 7,000 American nonprofits, including all the big conservation groups. Look at its homepage, and you’ll see categories from arts and culture to religion to education to animals. The philanthropic watchdog employs professional analysts to examine tens of thousands of nonprofit financial documents. From that info, it has developed what it calls an “unbiased, objective, numbers-based rating system.” 

The organization rates nonprofits by evaluating two areas of performance: financial health, and accountability and transparency. The ratings show givers how efficiently a charity uses donor support, how well it has sustained its programs and services over time, and its commitment to being accountable and transparent.

Bottom line, the group distills charities into a single number, and the higher the number, the better. Please understand, however, that the rating is not endorsing an organization’s mission. It simply rates how efficiently a group processes donor money to achieve its mission. Search long enough and users probably can find groups whose goals they (and I) completely abhor via CN’s website, but if they’re good at managing donor dollars and transparent about it, they’ll receive a good rating.

Those lean-and-mean groups that receive Charity Navigator’s 4-Star Rating – that is, more than 90 percent efficient – happily tout the recognition. A group that receives four stars is “exceptional” and exceeds industry standards and outperforms most charities in its cause. Three stars qualifies as “good” and means it exceeds or meets industry standards and performs as well as or better than most charities in its cause.

A good or great rating shouldn’t automatically trigger a check-writing reflex. (And it’s worth noting, the rating system does have some critics, too.) An organization’s mission and your personal species preferences absolutely should also influence which organization you support. 

Me, I’m a generalist hunter, and success for any species comes down to habitat, habitat, habitat. With the pressure on prairie grasslands and wetlands these days, the mission of groups like Pheasants Forever and Ducks Unlimited serves dozens of species, game and nongame alike. Coldwater species occupy most of my fishing hours these days, so I was happy to see Trout Unlimited scored well over 90 percent with Charity Navigator.

St. Paul-based PF consistently ranks high among national conservation groups for directing the vast majority of its dollars toward securing and managing quality wildlife habitat. In December, the group issued a press release noting that it joined a mere 12 percent of American charities that have received three consecutive four-star ratings from Charity Navigator.

Congrats to the fine men and women of PF. That’s a well deserved pat on the back.

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