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Habitat rated top charity in nation

By Staff | Feb 17, 2016

They were chanting, “We’re No. 1. We’re No. 1” in the hallways of Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties this week, and rightfully so.

The organization was recently ranked No. 1 in the nation for housing and neighborhood development by Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest charity evaluator, and also earned a four-star charity rating for the 10th time in the last 12 years by the organization, which is its highest ranking.

Habitat earned a near perfect score of 99.6 out of a possible 100, for its sound fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency.

“It’s an incredible rating. We’re excited to have this rating from Charity Navigator. We hope its proof we’re being transparent and efficient with our finances,” said Savannah Melton, Public Relations director at Habitat. “It’s a great way to be recognized and show we’re on a path to help more families.”

Habitat earned a perfect score for accountability and transparency, and a near-perfect score for the financial category.

Not much money goes to waste at the local Habitat, which has its offices in North Fort Myers. According to Charity Navigator, for every dollar spent by the affiliate, 94.5 percent is spent on direct program expenses. Only 3.8 percent goes to administrative costs, while 1.6 percent goes into fundraising.

“We have always worked really hard to steward our resources as prudently as we could. As a result, we have been a four-star charity for some time,” said Kitty Green, president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties. “We haven’t done that to win any contests, but because it’s the right thing to do.”

Charity Navigator uses an unbiased, numbers-based system to evaluate 8,000 of the nation’s charities’ financial health, governance practices, and openness with information. Charity Navigator awarded Habitat the top score in the Housing and Neighborhood Development Category.

Becky Sanders-Lucas, Habitat’s director of development, said they even direct potential donors to the site to show them just how responsible they are as proof.

“When givers ask us about our fiscal responsibility, we direct them to Charity Navigator because it’s a third-party objective analysis of how efficient we are,” Sanders-Lucas said. “We tell people to research charities because there are so many good ones. But don’t take our word for it, go there and feel confident about giving to us.”

Sanders said Habitat makes it a point to post their financials and strategic plan on their website for donors to look at anytime.

Habitat for Humanity’s mission is to put God’s love into action by bringing people together to build homes and communities.

Habitat homes are built through the use of volunteer labor and donations of money and materials. The homes are sold to qualified low-income families with an interest-free mortgage and monthly payments set at 30 percent or less of the homeowner’s income, making homeownership an affordable reality.

In the last five years, the organization has helped 322 families in Lee and Hendry Counties own their own homes.