Each year, 3.3 million unique visitors use CN's two-dimensional ratings and its content-rich site to guide estimated total giving of between $5 billion and $10 billion (an average of between $1,500 and $3,000 for each visitor per year, based on CN's surveys of its users' income level and Giving USA data). This number represents between two and a half and five percent of total annual charitable giving, excluding the $100 billion given to houses of worship and related entities. At present, CN rates approximately 5,700 US-based public charities, far more than any other evaluator.
To further support its users, CN will almost double the number of charities it rates, bringing the total to 10,000; add a full page of information for all U.S.-based nonprofits doing work both domestically and around the world; and add a third rating dimension - results reporting - so that each organization is reviewed on financial health, accountability/transparency, and results reporting. By the end of 2016, all 10,000 charities rated on CN will be rated on all three dimensions including results reporting (this new iteration of the site will be known as 'CN 3.0').
CN's three major goals to achieve this commitment are the following:
1) By the fall of 2013, CN will have a page on its site of at least basic information for each of the 1.5 million U.S.-registered non-profit organizations (one page per organization), including all of those that are not currently rated by CN. These pages will help users learn why a charity may not be rated by CN; or, if an organization meets CN's rating criteria, afford users a chance to vote for the next charities to be evaluated. Users will also be provided with a 'Rate it Yourself' tool to assist them in performing their own evaluation. In addition, they will be able to utilize the 'Write a Review' function to do just that for each of these 1.5 million charities through CN's partnership with GreatNonprofits.
2) By the end of 2016, CN will almost double the number of charities it rates from 5,700 currently to 10,000. The organization will provide ratings of 6,000 charities by the end of 2012, and will add 1,000 per year thereafter through 2016.
3) CN will add the third rating dimension of results reporting to the 10,000 rated charities by the end of 2016. Leading up to this release of what will be known as CN 3.0, results reporting information will be displayed as it is gathered, cause area by cause area, for each of the rated charities.
This major step forward will greatly enhance the engagement power of the CN website for users, concomitantly increasing site traffic and thus the amount of guidance provided to charitable givers/social investors. Ultimately, this will mean that many more people in need throughout the world will be getting the most meaningful help and positive change in their lives as donors - armed with more information to guide their giving - donate more money to higher performing charities.
CN will undertake the following in order to accomplish the three commitment goals as previously defined:
November 2012: Finalize changes to the CN 3.0 rating prototype based on feedback from experts in the field; mock-up layout of CN 3 .0 on CN website and create internal tracking.
December 2012: Begin to enter CN 3.0 data one cause area at a time. Target for completion is September 2016. Note: although data will be added on results reporting to organizations between December 2012 and September 2016, it is not until this data has been added to all 10,000 rated organizations that it will begin to affect each organization's rating.
December 31, 2012: Add 300 new charity ratings to the CN website, bringing the total to 6,000. Add 1,000 new charity ratings annually thereafter through 2016.
March 15, 2013: Modify CN's existing charity database to incorporate the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Exempt Organization Master File data fields and populate with the corresponding information; set up for automatic updating when new/updated information becomes available for each organization.
April 15, 2013: Pull the IRS data into CN's existing charity database.
May 15, 2013: Build in links to partner offerings: The Foundation Center's 990 Finder and GreatNonprofits reviews.
July 2013: Create the 'Rate it Yourself' tool, template, and voting feature.
July 31, 2013: Build out and test the CN 3.0 page template and user interface as they will appear on the site.
September 1, 2012: CN will have information available and displayed for each of the 1.5 million U.S.-based nonprofit organizations registered with the IRS.
End of 2016: 'Flip the switch' on CN 3.0 which will update the ratings for all 10,000 charities to incorporate the third dimension. Until this point, charity profiles will provide information on financial health, accountability/ transparency, and results reporting, but only rate on the first two criteria. After the 'switch is flipped', the ratings will now incorporate the third criteria into the ratings.
According to Giving USA 2012, Americans made $298.4 billion of charitable contributions in 2011. Over 1.5 million nonprofit organizations, a number that is continually increasing, are competing for smaller and smaller pieces of the giving pie, one that is not growing apace with the sector - indeed, adjusted for inflation, total giving has decreased. The funding pool is dwindling in some critical areas, most notably government at every level and in some cause areas from individuals. The individual category also includes bequests, as well as small family foundation giving. Given ever growing needs and less funding to meet those needs, providing vital information upon which donors can make effective charitable giving/social investing decisions is more important than ever. Research shows that fewer than 15% of donations by individual donors are researched, and rarely do donors look to information to find the 'best' organizations, i.e. those that provide real and lasting impact in the lives and communities they exist to serve (Hope Consulting. 'Money for Good' and 'Money for Good II'). Such real and lasting impact can only be achieved if a commitment is made by the sector to ensure that evaluators such as Charity Navigator exist as donor advocates to help guide intelligent giving. Today, most of the information available to donors is general in nature, and specifics are mostly related to organizations' financial health and accountability/transparency practices. Charities' reporting on their program results or outcomes has to date been woefully inadequate, if nonexistent. The sector must act to change that.
Since 2002, Charity Navigator (hereafter CN) has been a strong advocate for thoughtful donors and a positive force for change in the nonprofit field through its broad-ranging rating system. In its role as a donor advocate and given its commitment to continuous quality improvement, CN asks partners to join it in its commitment to provide donors with more knowledge to do more good. As a result, transformative change in the lives of many more people and communities will be achieved by the very best charities and CN will become an even stronger force for good.