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In 2001 Pat and Marion Dugan were interested in significantly increasing their charitable giving/social investing. As remains the case today, they were witnessing reports of scandals at a variety of local and national charities. Since many of these charities were household names that people assumed did good work, they concluded that they needed an independent and objective source of information to rely upon. But the information was not readily available.  Therefore, believing that the American people are amazingly generous and derive great satisfaction from helping others, but are not always sure how to help, they decided to create an unbiased source of information that would assist not just their needs for this information, but charitable givers/social investors throughout the nation with every type of charitable interest.

In the following video, Mr. Dugan, our Co-Founder and past Chairman of our Board, discusses in his own words the story of why he created Charity Navigator, the challenges the organization faced in the beginning and what he sees for the future. A more detailed article about Mr. Dugan and the creation of Charity Navigator can be found here.  

The following timeline recounts some of the key events in the history of Charity Navigator.


Charity Navigator is founded under the simple premise that people are amazingly generous and enjoy helping others but are not always sure how to go about it. Our founders, Pat and Marion Dugan, envisioned an unbiased and transparent source of information that would assist givers from every state, and with every type of charitable interest, in finding a charity to support.  


April 15, 2002




Charity Navigator is launched to help charitable givers make intelligent giving decisions. The new, free service catalogs the financial health of over eleven hundred charities. Upon its launch, it is the largest independent charity evaluating service in the world.


December 1, 2004

To help donors avoid becoming victims of mailing-list appeals, Charity Navigator begins to assess each charity's commitment to keeping donors' personal information confidential.


Charity Navigator partners with Network for Good to add the ability for donors to give through its website. Twenty thousand donors take advantage of this tool during the course of the year. They subsequently give more than $2.6 million to more than 2,200 of the charities rated by Charity Navigator. 

December 2007

The IRS releases the newly designed Form 990 which charities will begin completing in 2009 based on their financial operations in 2008. The new Form 990 consists of an 11-page core form and another 16 schedules (which may or may not be completed depending on the nonprofit’s activities). This is the first major redesign of the document since 1979.

Charity Navigator begins to make plans to use the additional data provided in the new Form 990 to expand its rating system.

April 2008

With evaluations of over five thousand charities, Charity Navigator remains the nation's largest and most-utilized evaluator of charities.

June 1, 2010


For the first time, a charity is placed on Charity Navigator's Donor Advisory list.



September 2011

After collecting data for more than a year, Charity Navigator launched a new, expanded, two-dimensional rating system that includes a measurement of each charity's  Accountability & Transparency.

March 2012

Early in March 2012, the charity, Invisible Children, released a video called Kony 2012. The video’s tremendous popularity brought the charity a mixed bag of praise and scrutiny. It also drove more than 284,000 visits to the Charity Navigator website in just one day as people wanted to learn more about the charity behind the video.

April 2012

Charity Navigator turns 10!

January 2013

Charity Navigator launches Results Reporting, the third dimension of its rating system.

December 27, 2013

The Board and staff of Charity Navigator were invited to ring the New York Stock Exchange Opening Bell!

January 2014

The first charity is added to the new Charity Navigator Watchlist



August 2014

The social media phenomenon, known as the Ice Bucket Challenge, takes off increasing the public's awareness of ALS and generating a slew of donations. At the peak of the campaign, Charity Navigator records nearly 90,000 visits to its site in a single day as challenge participants' research which specific ALS charity they want to support. 

Charity Navigator transitions from a 70 point rating scale to a more intuitive 100 point scale. 

December 2014

Charity Navigator rates 8,000 charities and continues to be the largest independent charity evaluator in the world!

July 2015

Charity Navigator's team of analysts complete 1,192 charity rating updates --- a new all-time record for the most updates completed in a single month!



August 2015

After collecting Results Reporting data from over 3,000 charities, Charity Navigator stops the collection of additional data to conduct a thorough analysis of the dataset and the collection process in order to determine how best to proceed with the eventual rating of this data. 

June 2016

On June 1st, 2016, CN launched its enhanced Financial Health rating methodology. This change came about after years of research and feedback collection from charities, independent advisors, and our own internal data collection. CN 2.1 better captures an organization’s long-term capacity and health by allowing for higher scores in program expense, removing the volatile primary revenue growth metric, including three-year averaging for non-capacity metrics, and introducing a new capacity metric, Liabilities to Assets Ratio (compare the new Financial Health rating metrics to the prior metrics).


September 2016

Charity Navigator launched a new CN Advisory System, designed to protect donors from charity scams and alleged misconduct by providing unbiased and objective information that ensures donors are informed, in a timely manner, of information that may influence their giving decisions. The new CN Advisory System classifies alleged wrongdoing at charitable organizations into three levels of concern: Low, Moderate and High.



December 2016

The Charity Navigator community came together and donated $8.9 million to 7,907 charities via the Giving Basket.



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