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The team from Charity Navigator, the nation's largest independent charity evaluator and leading donor advocate, shares their thoughts on emerging nonprofit-sector issues and offers tips to better inform your intelligent giving decisions.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Our most popular ratings are popular nationwide

In today’s post, I want to look a bit at our most heavily trafficked ratings, and how that traffic is distributed across the contiguous United States. Special thanks to Jess Freaner of Datascope Analytics for her visualization ideas.

It may come as no surprise that some ratings get visited more than others. In fact,  almost 36% of our ratings traffic goes to the top 1% of our ratings.*

In the graph below, I divided up all of our rated charities into 100 bins, with the leftmost bin representing the least popular charities. As you move to the right, you account for more and more of our total rating views, until the rightmost column accounts for 100%. (Hi-res graph)

Our top 20 charities alone are responsible for almost 20% of our traffic. Collectively, their ratings are viewed thousands of times each day. (Hi-res graph)


This demand is fairly uniform across the country; by-and-large, the difference in nationwide demand between organizations is greater than the difference in demand for the same organization in different regions.

One way we can see this is by looking at demand for our top charities on a state-by-state basis. In the graph below, each dot represents one US state (plus Washington, D.C.); there are 51 dots for each organization. The y-axis represents how much of that state’s rating views go to the organization in question. (Hi-res graph)


The dots come close together for most organizations, but they are far apart for some. Let’s look at two such examples: Wounded Warrior Project and Heifer International.

In the graph below, we break traffic down to the scale of US counties. We calculate the fraction of each county’s traffic going to the organization in question, and we compare that to the average** county. In counties that appear more orange, the organization is more popular than average; greener means less popular. (Hi-res graph)


These differences obscure a greater fact: as we have seen, our most popular ratings are popular nationwide. When it comes to our choice of charity, there is more that unites us than divides us.

David Bruce Borenstein is Charity Navigator’s lead data scientist. He holds a PhD in Quantitative and Computational Biology from Princeton.

* We have added ratings over time, which makes it difficult to compare traffic to charities. To get around this problem, I estimated how many rating views each charity would have had if it had been rated since day one.  To make this estimate, I simply scaled the org’s average daily rating views by the number of days since Charity Navigator was founded. I excluded any charities rated for the first time in the last 90 days.

** Here, “average” means geometric mean.

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