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Do You Believe the Results of a Charity's Work to Meet its Mission Matter?


June 2014

Dear Friends of Charity Navigator,

Do you believe the results of a charity’s work to meet its mission matter? 

As a user of Charity Navigator, it has been my privilege to keep you updated on our progress on CN 3.0, which is adding the critical third dimension of results reporting to our rating system.  This effort is focused on helping all of us who care about results win what I call the “battle” for the soul of the nonprofit sector.  An astonishing and incredibly generous $1.5 trillion of hard-earned money is given to charity each year, yet when we look at what many charities report on, there is limited accountability for how that money is being spent and whether it’s doing any good.  We know some of that money is going to some very bad charities.

For example, some charities are paying professional fundraisers much more (in some instances, the charities are even losing money!) than they are spending on programs and services for those whom they exist to serve.  However, for the vast majority of US-based charitable organizations (that serve every country in the world), we simply don’t know if their work is truly transforming the lives of people and communities for the better.  The core challenge we face in this “battle” is to overcome the resistance and roadblocks created by some to changing the status quo. We will win this battle when it becomes the norm for charities to publicly report their results in a meaningful way. CN 3.0 is all about helping to create that change.

With the continued and increased voluntary support of our users, we aim to change the current state of affairs in a very fundamental way.  We are doing what no other organization has ever done at scale before:

  • First, by assessing charities in this critical area,
  • Second, making that information easy to understand, readily accessible to all charitable givers/social investors, and
  • Third, as always, remaining true to our commitment to supplying this vital information completely free of charge. 

I also have a dream— that one day, just as all charities over a certain size are currently required to undergo a financial audit, they will also be required to submit a results audit.  I am working with my colleagues to do whatever we can to help make this dream become a reality.

Before coming to Charity Navigator, I spent 30 years running nonprofits that served the homeless, the developmentally disabled, the mentally ill, substance abusers and the medically needy, among others.  One thing I learned beyond doubt is that we can no longer assume that people are being effectively helped.  There are literally lives at stake as we work to hold charities accountable for demonstrating that the work they do truly helps others. 

To further hold charities accountable, Charity Navigator is building our rating system on what we call the three pillars of knowledge required to make a solid social investing/charitable giving decision.  We already provide you with two of those—ratings/assessments of the financial health and accountability/transparency of over 7,400 of the nation’s mid- to large-size charities.  In January 2013, we launched CN 3.0—adding results reporting information on a dedicated tab on individual charity rating pages.  We met our goal for 2013 of having 600 charities with the data displayed and our goal for 2014 is to have that census at 1,800.  My fervent hope is that we can deliver on our longer term goal and promise to you— to have 10,000 charities rated in all three dimensions by the end of 2016.

With your help, we will provide a major impetus for this fundamental paradigm shift in the charitable sector.  We know a sea change is not going to take place overnight—the reality is that only a small handful of charities currently have rigorous performance management systems in place.  But we are ushering in the next vital step toward getting a majority of charities to make results the focus of their efforts. One charity recently wrote to us upon receipt of their 4-star rating letter:

“ANRF is committed to maintaining the current level of fiscal management and transparency for which Charity Navigator has set the standards. We have already begun the work which will be required for your newest results rating matrix (CN 3.0).”

I’m sure you share our hope that, someday in the not too far distant future, the charities that get the most funding will be those that help the most people and communities by achieving the best results, rather than those that simply do a good job of marketing, as is currently the case.

To achieve our goal of rating 10,000 charities on CN 3.0 by 2016, we will need to increase our staff and budget by about 50%. If you can help us get there, I would be deeply grateful. All of us here appreciate your partnership in demanding accountability in the nonprofit sector.  

Donate to Charity Navigator

Together, we can and will win this battle!

All the best,

Ken Berger
President and CEO

P.S.  Our 2013 Annual Report is just about ready for publication.  It will be available on our web site but, if you’d prefer a hard copy or would like it emailed to you, we’d be happy to send it along.  Simply email us at development@charitynavigator.org or call 201-293-0416 to make you request.  And thanks again for your support—it is most deeply appreciated!

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