B’nai B’rith rejects listing among insolvent charities

WASHINGTON (JTA) – B’nai B’rith International rejected as inaccurate its topping a well-known charity watchdog’s list of "charities in deep financial trouble."

"B’nai B’rith International does not have $13 million negative capital and we are not in financial trouble," the group said on Charity Navigator’s website. "The numbers Charity Navigator used to place B’nai B’rith on its ’10 Charities in Deep Financial Trouble’ list were a year old."  

It appears from the most recent of the organization’s International Revenue Service 990 forms posted on the B’nai B’rith website that Charity Navigator was working from 2010 figures, when B’nai B’rith recorded $13.5 million in negative capital.

The most recent form, for 2011, shows B’nai Brith $154,145 in the black. The 2011 return also shows that donations to the organization spiked from $8.7 million in 2010 to $12.2 million last year.  

The B’nai B’rith statement cites the U.S. government’s takeover in September of B’nai B’rith International’s pension plan as a factor in the group’s improved fiscal outlook, noting that the decision to turn to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. was a difficult one.

"The request was made for a greater good – to continue the good works we do, and to ensure former employees and current pension-eligible employees will have their pensions when they need them," the statement said.

B’nai B’rith’s listing as the most insolvent of 10 charities was part of a Top Ten issue of Charity Navigator marking its 10th anniversary for December, when charitable giving tends to spike.

Explaining its criteria, the publication said, "Not only do their total liabilities, or what they owe, exceed their total assets, they also maintain negative working capital — that is, the bills they owe exceed available assets that can be used to pay those bills. While these charities may not be facing bankruptcy, their fundamental insolvency puts these charities in a very dangerous position."

The B’nai B’rith statement also took issue with the watchdog’s rating of the group with one star of a possible four.

"We feel your methodology does not differentiate between program-based charities such as ours and pass-through charities," the statement said. "Our administrative costs cover more than just fundraising. We maintain programs addressing public policy, services for seniors, humanitarian and disaster assistance and a summer camp for young people. These ongoing programs have associated costs."

B’nai B’rith also runs a number of assisted-living facilities.

The B’nai B’rith statement to Charity Navigator ended on an optimistic note.

"Before the Civil War, before the Red Cross, there was B’nai B’rith," it said. "Wish us a happy birthday … we turn 169 on Oct. 13."

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