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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Highlights of the New Nonprofit Profile Page


Written by Stephen Rockwell, Chief Ratings Technology Officer at Charity Navigator. Stephen is leading the team of charity analysts, program specialists, and development engineers that will launch the new rating methodology and criteria. Read the preceding four installments here. 

Our ratings evolution demands that we explore new indicators and measures to complete the picture of a nonprofit’s effectiveness. The ratings do not live independently of our website, but rather are accessed in a number of different modalities. Charity Navigator’s Ratings are most often consumed within the context of search results, our Hot Topic lists, and nonprofit profile pages within our website.

The primary location of the full rating is the nonprofit profile page. On this page, site users and donors can feed their curiosity to get “under the hood” of the rating in order to understand what components make up a score and learn more about the nonprofit organization’s impact and engagement with their constituents. Early in the ratings redesign process, our team realized that we couldn’t build a more robust rating system without also redesigning the page in which the ratings and underlying data live. Putting more content with the existing page design wasn’t going to serve anyone well. It was time for a complete profile page redesign.

Time for Charity Navigator’s Redesign

Indeed, I came to Charity Navigator last October on a mission to not only evolve the ratings system but to modernize our technology and interface.  While a lot of our users have grown accustomed to our website over the years, hopefully we can agree that it is a dated design.  The underlying technology is also quite dated so we really had our work cut out for us as not just a simple facelift, but a complete systems overhaul.

Thankfully, we have a great team and leaders equally committed to improving the core product.  On the interface side, I found an expert partner in our Chief Relationship Officer, Kevin Scally, who combines a marketer’s design aesthetic with a robust technical skillset. From day one, we have been aligned on going big on redesign and found a great external partner in a UX/Design agency in Second Melody. On the technology side, our Director of Engineering, Matt Dragon, was already cooking up a technical modernization game plan.  Our front-end developer, Tyler Stahl rounds out the profile page team and is doing all the heavy lifting on building out the page.  After a few high-level technical architecture conversations, we were ready to start building on a new technology platform.

We are pleased to share our progress that includes a number of elements in the below graphic.


  • Menus – Header and Footer menus have been redesigned and modernized with placement.  We should note that for a limited period of time, only the nonprofit profile pages will have this new look, but the plan is to migrate the rest of the site after our ratings launch.
  • Page Layout
o   Header – Organization Name, EIN, and Headquarter City
o   Dashboard as page navigation – On the right side, there is a ratings dashboard that acts as navigation to the page and the ratings sections.  The dashboard will persist with the user down the page with links to each of the beacon detail sections and the opportunity to add the organization to your My Charities list and to donate to the organization.
o   Organization Information – Underneath the header, there will be a section with basic information about the organization.
o   Ratings System Information – We provide a high-level description of the new Encompass Rating System with an overall organization score and links to find out more about the current version of the rating system.
o   Details section for each beacon – Each beacon will have its own section to dig into the details.  These sections are color coded to the beacon color so the user is aware of which section they are in as they navigate down the page.
o   Advisories – the layout changes for organizations that receive an advisory.  No rating is provided for organizations with a high advisory.
  •  Beacon Section Layouts – Each beacon area will have a complete details section with the following components: 


o   Overall score and explanation – An explanation of the indicator and the score for the organization within this beacon area.
o   Ratings highlights – A section for highlights of data with indicators of how each measure affects the overall score.  As can be seen above, we color code the impact on score.
o   Ratings report – Details for each rated measure and other data relevant to the organization is in the report section (screenshot below under “Full Meal”).
o   What’s next for this beacon – A brief summary of what Charity Navigator is considering for the next version of this beacon with ways that nonprofits and donors can participate in building the next version of the rating. 
Nibble, Bite, Full Meal

The architecture of the information aims to target our various kinds of users.  The mantra that I have instilled in our team is “Nibble, Bite, Full-meal.”  Let’s explore this model and how it meets the needs of each type of user.

  • Nibble – Many of our users never make it past search results. They come to the Charity Navigator website seeking to validate an existing philanthropic inclination.  This type of user wants to make sure that they are giving to a nonprofit with a solid rating and devoid of any serious concerns raised in our Advisory system.   We know this because we see as many as 25% of our users leave our site from the search results page.  The nibble is providing the rating in the search results.  Below is a preliminary rendering of how we will incorporate our new numerical Encompass Rating System with our current star rating system in our current search results interface. 



  • Bite – Another segment of our users dig a little deeper and click from search results onto the nonprofit profile page itself.  In addition to a whole new page design, these users will be greeted with a dashboard on the right side of the page that will include an overall numerical score and 4 beacons that make up the score.  For many users, seeing those scores with a brief explanation of the scoring system will be the bite.  Each one of those beacon scores will be clickable and take the user farther down the page for the full meal of ratings details.

  • Full Meal – The final segment of our users want to dig into the details of the ratings methodology.  In some cases, these are donors or nonprofit staff that are committed to the nonprofit organization or to a particular cause and want to compare a number of nonprofit organizations within the cause area.  In other cases, they are interested in the nonprofit sector or our methodology more broadly.  They want to fully understand why the organization is scoring within our system with the rating we have provided.  These users will be able to dig into more detail within each one of the indicator areas exploring data and charts that are either directly relevant to the rating, or more generally describe the organization.  The figure below is our first take at a Finance & Accountability Report with the Liabilities to Assets Ratio that explains the metric, the measure for this organization, how we scored their performance on this measure, and where we source the data.


Telling a More Complete Story

Our ultimate goal in evolving our rating system is to provide a more complete picture of a nonprofit’s effectiveness by providing more robust data and evaluations to donors to better inform their philanthropic giving.  We’ve approached the problem holistically through new ratings explorations coupled with page design.  Click here to access the public beta and be sure to fill out the survey that pops on the pages to give us feedback.  We’d love to hear what’s working and what isn’t, feedback that will go into our continuous improvement process.

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