"But what has he done?" -- Researching Charities


Amidst the train wreck, dumpster fire, nuclear meltdown that is the Donald Sterling situation, the embattled owner of the Los Angeles Clippers posed an interesting set of questions to Anderson Cooper. Cooper’s interview of Sterling on CNN was supposed to be Sterling’s apology for the bigoted remarks made to his girlfriend V. Stiviano that were later leaked to TMZ, aired throughout the nation and resulted in Sterling receiving a $2.5 million fine and a lifetime ban from the NBA.

Sterling sort of apologized, but he also used the forum to take several shots at NBA legend, and former Los Angeles Laker, Earvin Magic Johnson, claiming that Johnson was a poor role model for the youth of L.A. because he contracted HIV.

Sterling also accused Johnson – who is not currently on trial in the court of public opinion over anything -- of neglecting the African American community.

“What does he do for the black people? He doesn't do anything,” Sterling said. “What has he done? Can you tell me? Big Magic Johnson, what has he done?”

Cooper didn’t snap up that particular bit of bait, but plenty of commentators did. Because it’s as easy as a Johnson slam dunk (or let’s say dish out an assist, since Magic was a point guard) to find that answer. Two or three clicks will get you there.

What has Magic Johnson done? Well…

The Magic Johnson Foundation, founded in 1991 and located on Wilshire Blvd. - not far from JVS -  has raised more than $20 million for AIDS education, research and prevention. The foundation has given more than $4 million in scholarships to more than 800 minority high school students through its Taylor Michaels Scholarship Program. Johnson has brought numerous businesses – movie theaters, Starbucks etc. – to urban areas. The Foundation’s motto, somewhat ironically given Sterling’s jab, is “We are the communities we serve.”

Like many other nonprofits, we tend to put a lot of stock in the words of Charity Navigator which is pretty much the gold standard for ranking charities and guiding intelligent giving. JVS likes Charity Navigator, and they like us. And for good reason. JVS recently earned Charity Navigator’s 4-star ranking – the highest ranking possible – for a seventh consecutive year. Only 2% of all nonprofits reviewed by the site have been top-ranked for that length of time.

Even if Donald Sterling didn’t want to conduct a ton of research into the individual he was about to trash, he could have found a nice quickie answer at Charity Navigator. He might have learned that…

“The Magic Johnson Foundation, founded by Earvin 'Magic' Johnson in 1991, works to develop programs and support community-based organizations that address the educational, health and social needs of ethnically diverse, urban communities. Over the past few years, the Magic Johnson Foundation has awarded more than $1.1 million to community-based organizations that focus on HIV/AIDS education and prevention, supported more than 800 minority high school students with college scholarships (through the Taylor Michaels Scholarship Program), opened 20 Magic Johnson Community Empowerment Centers located in underserved communities across the country, and provided a range of community-based initiatives including an annual Children's Mardi Gras and holiday toy drive.”

Or Sterling might have gone directly to the “Our Impact” section of the Magic Johnson Foundation’s website where there’s plenty of good information.

The foundation’s website does contain one error, however…

“MJF has achieved a 3-star rating on Charity Navigator for sound fiscal management and commitment to accountability and transparency. MJF’s audit is conducted in accordance with auditing standards generally accepted in the US.


Did you spot it? In fact, the current Charity Navigator ranking for the Magic Johnson Foundation is 4 stars, not 3, a ranking that befits a charity that does a lot for a lot of people.

So that’s what Magic Johnson has done.

And that’s how you find out.