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Monday, July 19, 2021

Meet the Team: My Nonprofit Journey - Zachary Weinsteiger

Welcome to our Meet The Team series, where each month we will introduce a member of the Charity Navigator team to our readers. Millions of visitors come to Charity Navigator annually, and they may be surprised to learn that we're a staff of 25! We often proudly state that we are a "small yet mighty team"-- achieving a lot with the resources we have, while staying focused on our mission. We are extremely honored to be a part of the nonprofit community where our footprint (and our ratings!) have expanded, and we are incredibly appreciative of the support received from our donors and users, nonprofits, and funders. We hope this series will be enlightening and entertaining. Click here for other profiles.

My name is Zachary Weinsteiger, and I have been with Charity Navigator for over 5 years. Today, I serve as Charity Navigator’s Advisory System Manager, where I am responsible for overseeing the day to day operations of our Advisory program, as well as the continuous improvement and development within that system. The Charity Navigator Advisory System serves as a critical supplement by alerting donors to areas of possible concern that cannot otherwise be captured by our ratings systems.

It's a niche position, and, in what may come as a surprise to nobody, this is not the kind of work I ever imagined myself doing prior to joining Charity Navigator in the Spring of 2016. I had spent my life convinced that my path lay in the pursuit of academia. Specifically, I wanted to be an educator with a focus on English Literature. Before Charity Navigator, I attended grad school to pursue that career, but came to the slow realization that the academic lifestyle just wasn’t what I wanted long term. I couldn’t help but begin to feel stagnant, like my days were filled with little more than reading books. Don’t get me wrong, there was an appeal to getting to spend my days on one of my favorite activities, but it made me realize that, to be truly content, I needed to feel that what I was doing had a direct impact on the world.

Even with that growing realization, I didn’t per se expect to wind up in the nonprofit sector. I am an Eagle Scout, so I certainly had a background that touched on volunteerism and service, but it’s not where I imagined I’d build my career. But I had had the good fortune of hearing Charity Navigator's founder, Pat Dugan, speak at my undergraduate graduation. In a stroke of additional luck, I had a good friend who had been moved enough by the description of his work in founding the organization who began working with the organization. It came to pass over dinner with this friend one evening, that I began discussing the nature of their work and I found myself asking more and more follow up questions until she stopped me to say, “You know, you sound really interested in this, we’re hiring analysts right now if you’d like to apply.” 

When I joined the Analyst team, I immediately fell in love with the process. I spent my days analyzing and calculating ratings on various nonprofits, and the intricacies and fringe cases and thinking around how to address them made me genuinely excited. I also went home at the end of the day feeling I had provided a real service to millions of donors, as well as to thousands of impactful organizations whose positive ratings would translate, ideally, into more funding to fulfill their mission. I also began to serve on the Charity Navigator Advisory Committee where I realized my passion for evaluation was an offshoot of a deeper passion for making relevant and meaningful information available and digestible to those who would be benefited by it. 

And there was the throughline.

I’m a nerd. Terminally so. I have always loved ideas and data and finding ways to make it accessible. It's why I wanted to be an academic, and it's why this work proved so meaningful to me. Having the ability to brainstorm, problem solve, and ultimately contribute to the continued advancement of Charity Navigator’s ability to provide essential information and insight to the donating public keeps this work so consistently engaging to me.

Written by Zachary Weinsteiger, Advisory System Manager at Charity Navigator.

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