I remember sitting on the old blueish carpeting at synagogue; I was probably no older than eleven; I loved tigers. Our religious school teacher had written a list of charities on the dry-erase board. One column was for Jewish charities, and one column for non-Jewish ones. We were told to close our eyes and raise our hands for our favorite charities from each list. Following the vote, we would donate the money our class had raised, split between the charities that had won the elections.
I remember fervently hoping that a wildlife conservation charity – which I understood to mean “tiger conservation charity” – would win the non-Jewish charity vote. I remember being frustrated that the teacher didn’t offer the chance to discuss and debate which charity was best. I wanted our donation decision to be fair, considered, and therefore (obviously) tiger-centric.
I can’t say that my feline-focused frustration at that charity election drove me to work at Charity Navigator, researching and evaluating nonprofit programs. But it certainly prefigured my present project: using research and evidence to find the best opportunities to do good and displaying those opportunities to donors. In college, studying economics and philosophy, I learned that some charities can be hundreds of times as effective as ordinary charities. I learned tools of analysis to decide how to allocate limited resources, like donations. I decided I wanted to work to help those who are worst off and least represented – although that might not mean tigers, but rather people living in extreme poverty, future generations, or animals suffering in factory farms. Now, working at Charity Navigator allows me to apply the insights from my studies to a real-world context.
With my research for Charity Navigator’s Impact Unit, I seek to provide donors with information about the impact of nonprofit programs, so donors can put their money to effective charitable use. It is incredibly motivating to do research that can have a material improvement on the lives of beneficiaries. It can also be solemn. In an unequal, imperfect world, highlighting high-impact charitable programs can feel like medical triage – not all charities get top scores. Which charities are especially high-impact donation opportunities? Donors are trusting us to advise their decision, to guide the giving-away of hard-earned money; it is a humbling responsibility.
I’m grateful to participate in a charity election (sorta) every day at Charity Navigator — and grateful to share this responsibility with a wonderful team which strives for charity evaluations that are fair, considered, and maybe even occasionally tiger-centric.