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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.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Inside Story: New Charity Navigator Team Member Talks

When one first joins a new team, there is a learning curve that one goes through. My name is Steven Caron and I am the Communications and Development Associate at Charity Navigator (CN), a title I have now held for only 2 weeks. I am on that learning curve and will share some of my observations thus far. I arrived at Charity Navigator through Atlas Corps, a fellowship program that brings fellows from around the world to serve in American nonprofit organizations. I am from Montreal, Quebec and have been in the non-profit for a few years now. The fellowship is a 1 to 1.5 year program.

At the start of my service at Charity Navigator, the most important task has been to understand how the organization operates, thinks and breathes. These are the building blocks from which my future work, progress and achievements will spring. It is for this reason that my first week has been spent, primarily, meeting with members of the management team. Each of them briefed and oriented me on their responsibilities within the organization, how they conduct their business and how I can get involved.

This blog is a summary of what I have learned and understood during this initial time period, particularly about why the organization was created and what it is setting out to accomplish. Since I am new to this as well, I figure my explanation should be a good overview of Charity Navigator and an introduction for people who don’t know much about this forward thinking and overachieving organization.

Firstly, one may want to know, why Charity Navigator was started in the first place. The answer is quite logical actually. As explained in their own words in this video, around the year 2000, the founders, Pat and Marion Dugan, were looking to donate a considerable amount of money. However, they didn’t want to hand over their gift to an organization that was either fraudulent or not effective with their funds. Through their research they came to the realization that an objective, unbiased charity rating service didn’t exist. Disappointed, Mr. and Mrs. Dugan decided donors needed an easy way to access information about how to donate their funds to create the most value for society. And thus, Charity Navigator was born with the mission to guide intelligent giving.
If you are new to Charity Navigator like me, I find it helpful to think of it as a tool you might use in the for-profit world to determine where you’ll get the best financial return on your money. The one major difference is that Charity Navigator helps donors invest their funds to get the best SOCIAL return on their money. We call this social investing instead of donating.
Ultimately, if donors are better educated, they will presumably allocate funds to the more efficient and effective charities. This means that less efficient/ effective charities will become starved for funds and disappear, thereby making more funding available to the charities that bring about the most social benefits.

To achieve this goal, Charity Navigator rates and provides information on, at the moment 6,000+ charities. The goal is to reach 10,000 charities over the next few years. And, in the meantime, Charity Navigator plans to provide basic information for all, roughly 1.35 million nonprofits that currently exist in America (although a portion of these charities provide services in almost every country on the planet).

Furthermore, in accordance with its core values, CN is constantly working on revamping and improving their ratings. For this reason, even though CN recently unveiled its new CN 2.0 rating system, it is already working on (and has begun to post information about) the “Results Reporting” element that would complete CN 3.0.

All that being said, the goal at Charity Navigator is to provide a guide for donors to become social investors, meaning donors who allocate their money where it will create the most value.  I look forward to being a part of this organization’s work over at least the next year and serving to impact social investing in the ultimate goal of increasing social value.

I would love to hear from our readers as to what you would like to see, moving forward, on this blog, so please send me your suggestions to scaron@charitynavigator.org. Thanks!

As a 501 (c) (3) organization itself, Charity Navigator depends on public support to help donors make informed choices. Please consider investing in the future of Charity Navigator by making a donation today.  Donate now >>

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