|Founder||John Patrick Dugan|
|Headquarters||Saddle Brook, New Jersey, U.S.|
Chief Ratings Technology Officer
Chief Relationship Officer
Chief Admin Officer
|Marie Wieck (Chair), Michael Cooney (Vice Chair)|
Charity Navigator is a charity assessment organization that evaluates hundreds of thousands of charitable organizations based in the United States, operating as a free 501(c)(3) organization. It provides insights into a nonprofit’s financial stability, and adherence to best practices for both accountability and transparency. It is the largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities in the United States. It does not accept any advertising or donations from the organizations it evaluates.
Charity Navigator was launched in spring 2001 by John P. (Pat) Dugan, a wealthy pharmaceutical executive and philanthropist. The group's mission was to help "donors make informed giving decisions and enabling well-run charities to demonstrate their commitment to proper stewardship" of donor dollars. Initially, Charity Navigator provided financial ratings for 1,100 charities; it had data on 8,500 as of mid-2017.
As of 2009, only four percent of the charities it evaluated had earned at least five consecutive 4-star ratings.
In 2011, Kiplinger's Personal Finance selected Charity Navigator as a Money Management Innovation for "helping millions of people become philanthropists", and it was on Time magazine's top 50 websites of 2006 list.
In a 2014 Chronicle of Philanthropy interview on the nonprofit sector, Nicholas Kristof identified it with a trend he deplored: "There is too much emphasis on inputs and not enough on impact", Kristof opined. "This has been worsened by an effort to create more accountability through sites like Charity Navigator. There is so much emphasis now on expense ratios that there is an underinvestment in administration and efficiency."
A 2014 survey of attitudes toward charity evaluation lauded Charity Navigator in six of seven categories.
Using publicly available tax returns (IRS Form 990) filed with the Internal Revenue Service and information posted by charities on their web sites, the Charity Navigator rating system bases its evaluations in two broad areas—financial health and accountability/transparency.
Limitations of initial methodology
In the early years, it was the subject of some criticism for its approach at the time. This method was in 2005 criticized in an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review for at the time taking into account only a single year's IRS Form 990. This can lead to significant fluctuation in the ranking of a charity from year to year. Also, the focus on the IRS Form 990 has itself been criticized, as the accuracy and reliability of IRS Form 990 data may be questionable. Form 990 categorizes a charity's expenditures into three broad categories that are open to accounting manipulation. The nonprofit sector does not have the strict financial regulation and transparency required from public corporations (under the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, among others), creating limitations on how accurately a charity's efficiency can be graded based on a tax return. Particularly relevant to Charity Navigator's methodology in 1999 was that 59% of the 58,000 charities receiving public donations in 1999 failed to report any fundraising expenditures, illustrating a potential problem with relying on Form 990 figures alone when analyzing an organization.
In December 2008, President and CEO Ken Berger announced on his blog that the organization intended to expand its rating system to include measures of the outcomes of the work of charities it evaluated. This was described in further detail in a podcast for The Chronicle of Philanthropy in September 2009. The article explained that plans for a revised rating system would also include measures of accountability (including transparency, governance, and management practices) as well as outcomes (the results of the work of the charity).
In July 2010, Charity Navigator announced its first major revamp. This revamping began what the organization stated is the process to move toward CN 3.0, which is a three-dimensional rating system that would include what they consider the critical elements to consider in making a wise charitable investment
- financial health (Charity Navigator evaluated this from its inception),
- accountability and transparency (begun in July 2010) and
- results reporting (slated to begin rating this dimension in July 2012).
After collecting data for more than a year, in September 2011 Charity Navigator launched CN 2.0, which is a two-dimensional rating system that rates a charity's: (1) financial health, and (2) accountability and transparency.
In January 2013, Charity Navigator announced another expansion to its rating methodology, "Results Reporting: The Third Dimension of Intelligent Giving". Because mission-related results are the very reason that charities exist, Charity Navigator developed this new rating dimension to specifically examine how well charities report on their results. The new rankings now include "various criteria, including ... privacy policies".
In July 2020, Charity Navigator announced an additional nonprofit rating system, Encompass. The new Encompass Rating System analyzes nonprofit performance based on four key indicators:
- Finance & Accountability
- Impact & Results
- Leadership & Adaptability
- Culture & Community
This alternative methodology allows the organization to increase the total number of rated nonprofits from 9,000 to 160,000 at launch. The rating system launched with the first key indicator, Finance & Accountability, with a plan to release additional indicators over the next 18-24 months.
Improvements in response; reception
In response to an op-ed authored by Charity Navigator's CEO entitled "The Elitist Philanthropy of so-called Effective Altruism", the cofounder of the Centre for Effective Altruism wrote "What Charity Navigator Gets Wrong About Effective Altruism".
- American Institute of Philanthropy
- Charity fraud
- Charity Intelligence Canada
- "Board and Staff". Charity Navigator.
- "Board of Directors : Charity Navigator". Retrieved July 26, 2021.
- Piper, Kelsey (October 16, 2020). "Which charities do the most good? Charity Navigator joins the effort to answer this crucial question". Vox.
- Contributor, Morristown Green. "COVID relief drives record giving at Community Foundation; grants topped $87.5M in 2020 | Morristown Green".
- "Charity Navigator: About Us". Retrieved September 26, 2020.
- Stephanie Strom (November 26, 2010). "To Help Donors Choose, Web Site Alters How It Sizes Up Charities". The New York Times.
- Marc Gunther (April 5, 2015). "Why Charity Navigator needs an upgrade". Nonprofit Chronicles. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
- Overholt, Alison (August 2003). "Charitable Deductions: Charity Navigator dares to hold the nation's nonprofits accountable for their fund-raising". Fast Company. Archived from the original on March 25, 2006.
- Carrns, Ann (27 May 2016). "Charity Navigator Tweaks Its Rating System". The New York Times.
- "Furman University Receives Charity Navigator's Top Rating". September 2, 2009. Retrieved February 21, 2021.
- "20 Financial Innovations You Can't Afford to Ignore". Kiplinger. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
- "50 Coolest Websites for 2006". Time. No. August 2006. Archived from the original on August 15, 2006.
- "Inspiring People to Make a Difference". The Chronicle of Philanthropy. September 15, 2014.
- Janna Finch (April 25, 2017). "Survey: Do Ratings From Watchdog Groups Impact Giving Decisions?". softwareadvice.com.
- Niraj Chokshi (September 27, 2017). "How to Decide Where to Donate Your Money After Disasters". The New York Times.
- Lowell, Trelstad and Meehan (Summer 2005). "The Ratings Game: Evaluating the three groups that rate the charities". Stanford Social Innovation Review.
- "UI Press - Nonprofit Almanac 2008 - Summary". urban.org. Archived from the original on March 28, 2012. Retrieved September 27, 2011.
- "A Measure of Outcome". Kenscommentary.org. December 8, 2008. Archived from the original on July 25, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
- "Ken's Podcast Interview". September 11, 2009. Archived from the original on July 18, 2010. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
- Ken Berger (July 1, 2010). "Charity Navigator Expands Rating Methodology". Charitiy Navigator. Archived from the original on August 19, 2010. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
- John Hanc (November 6, 2017). "Want to Help? Do Your Research Before You Donate". The New York Times.
investments .. balanced portfolio
- "Where We Are Headed (2013 and Beyond)". charitynavigator.org. Archived from the original on June 29, 2015. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
- Berger, Ken (September 20, 2011). "Ken's Commentary: CN 2.0: More Knowledge, More Good". Kenscommentary.org. Archived from the original on January 12, 2012. Retrieved January 5, 2012.
- Ann Carrns (December 2, 2015). "Before Giving, Check Out Charities and Their Policies on Privacy". The New York Times.
- "Charity Navigator Initiates New Era in Charitable Giving with Launch of Encompass Rating System". Charity Navigator. Retrieved August 19, 2020.
- Toussaint, Kristin (July 29, 2020). "Charity Navigator is launching a new rating system to help better evaluate nonprofits". Fast Company. Retrieved August 19, 2020.
- Ken Berger; Robert Penna (November 25, 2013). "The Elitist Philanthropy of so-called Effective Altruism". SSIR.org.
- William MacAskill (December 3, 2013). "What Charity Navigator Gets Wrong About Effective Altruism (SSIR)". SSIR.org (Stanford Social Innovation Review).