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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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Monday, January 4, 2021

Reflections on 2020 as we move forward into 2021: A message from Michael Thatcher, President & CEO, Charity Navigator


Dear friends of Charity Navigator,

The year 2020 had a way of stripping away all that was not essential in our lives, our work and our giving. While no one could have predicted how 2020 would unfold, it is extremely heartening that millions of people stepped up more than ever before, to support the causes close to their hearts in their efforts to make things better for others and our world.  Giving was essential in 2020.  Charity Navigator was an essential tool of choice for many in their giving decisions this year.  Our work matters.  If you are reading this, it’s safe to assume that you use Charity Navigator and maybe even support us directly. Thank you for your generosity and investments in us and through us in 2020.  Although we are still very much in the midst of the pandemic, your generosity makes a difference.  

We are proud to have served millions of people in their giving decisions this past year.  Our ratings and impartial information on hundreds of thousands of nonprofits allow them to differentiate through ratings and gain donor support.  To this end, in July we launched the Encompass Rating System which lives alongside our long-relied upon Star Rating System.  Encompass expands our rating coverage from 9,000 to more than 160,000 nonprofits. This provides donors with more choices and provides many smaller, more recently established nonprofits with an important trust indicator.  During our Innovation Series livestreams, we connected with a number of Encompass-rated nonprofits that shared just how galvanizing their new ratings were, as many had to shift business models to survive the pandemic.

We delivered on our promise to deepen the ratings through the first ever impact ratings at Charity Navigator.  In September we joined forces with ImpactMatters and in October, once the acquisition and integration was complete, more than 1,100 organizations received an impact rating. If you’ve not seen this, please see the Impact & Results beacon of the Encompass Rating System. Today visitors to Charity Navigator get insight into programmatic delivery as a cost per outcome for several of the nonprofits they may be researching.

During times of crisis, Charity Navigator often sees a surge in traffic as people seek to help those affected by the crisis through the charities directly providing assistance. We’ve seen this a lot over the years, but we have never experienced a global pandemic, and the response was and continues to be overwhelming. It has been an honor to meet this need through our carefully curated COVID-19 Top Nonprofits list.  

2020 brought several other poignant issues leading us to provide additional curated lists of highly rated nonprofits responding to issues including:

This past year, our site was accessed more than 9.4 million times in 2020 (a 23% increase over 2019). Additionally, more than $34 million was donated through our Giving Basket to 23,624 nonprofits by 65,395 individual donors in 2020 - Your generosity led to us crossing the $100 million mark on GivingTuesday 2020 for total donations raised through the Giving Basket since 2015. 

So, where do we go from here and what is essential in 2021? 

The team and I have been working from home since March 13, 2020.  This has assured the personal well-being of the staff and has led to greater productivity and increased mission delivery.  We’ll keep doing this in 2021 and adapt as needed as the year progresses.  

Our strategy and focus stay the same: Make Impactful Philanthropy Easier for All through improved service delivery and increased relevance of our offerings.   You will see this manifest through:

  1. Increased depth and breadth of the Encompass Rating System with us: 

    1. rating more nonprofits on impact and expanding the methodology to accommodate new cause areas and models from the Impact Unit 

    2. expanding the Encompass Rating System and its two remaining beacons (i.e. areas of nonprofit health) for Leadership & Adaptability and Culture & Community

    3. revising and updating the Finance & Accountability beacon and others based on feedback and internal review. 

  2. Increased value of the user experience and relationship with more features to our ratings, the Giving Basket, Hot Topics, Website and more.

  3. Improved backend infrastructure (less visible) which makes the above possible, such as building a nonprofit portal for collecting ratings information, deploying a CRM, and harmonizing the systems upon which our website and ratings tools are built.

The year 2020 taught many of us how to refine our focus and actions on that which was most essential.  As we now let go of 2020, so as to powerfully move into 2021, I thank you for staying true to us and supporting our work.  You made us essential by including us in your giving last year.  I hope that you can take pride in knowing how your use and support of Charity Navigator impacts the strength of the nonprofit sector and the lives and causes that these organizations serve. We are grateful to have you with us for the journey in 2021 and look forward to sharing our progress with you throughout the year.

Please continue to be a Charity Navigator evangelist, spreading the word about the work that we do with your family, friends, and neighbors - that is one of the biggest compliments you can give to us.

On behalf of the Charity Navigator team, my best wishes to you for a bright, healthy and Happy New Year!


Michael Thatcher

President & CEO

Charity Navigator


Unknown said...

Excellent goals! Thank you for the service you do. I rely on CN to check all new charities under consideration.

Here's to a better year! **Cheers!**


Unknown said...

Happy to support your very important work. I am retired so it is vital that my contributions go where they are best used. You have helped me weed out many heart-rending but ineffective appeals and helped me focus my efforts on the most useful charities. Thank you!

Be Yeamans said...

I'm glad Charity Navigator exists. I print out and use a part of their list in making my semi annual charitable contributions. They are one of my selected charities.
I send my contributions by mail by check only.
I try to limit giving my debit card information on my laptop and iphone
Be Yeamans

Charlie said...

Thank you for all you & the rest of the Charity Navigator staff do. I always check a charity on your website before I donate.

Be Yeamans said...

I appreciate the help I get from Charity Navigator in donating to my selected charities. I print out my selections, and keep track of my giving
I give only by mail by check as I don't like sharing my debit card info with too many entities

Meredith said...

amazing and encouraging that so many people are using Charity Navigator to reach out to fellow Americans and folks worldwide.
Thank you for the services Charity Navigator provides

snave said...

I already did that

snave said...

So many groups send "gifts" to make you feel guilty for not donating. I have so many address labels that I have throw them away.

Also Is get way too many repeat requests. Two a year is enough.


Unknown said...

I always check the percentage of the donation going to aid the charity and I also check the CEO's compensation.

Meredith said...

really appreciate all that Charity Navigator team has been working on and the best service for confidence in philanthropy