January 30, 2015

4 Ways Charity Navigator Can Increase Your Donor Dollars

Sarah Beauchemin • Guest Blogger

You’ve sat attentively through the long fundraising meetings, poring over spreadsheets, donor stats, and event planning charts. You’ve spent months constructing a sensational annual campaign. Your Outlook calendar is peppered with all of the exciting fundraising events for the upcoming year. Donors, old and new, are going to fall hard for your org. You’re all set: commence kicking ass and taking names!

Except as the year progresses, you’re increasingly disappointed that your org is not exactly where it should be. You don’t get it. Despite heavy promotion via social media, word-of-mouth, great content, and community events, you’re still coming up short.

What gives?

Enter Charity Navigator, a site that could just be the missing piece in your org’s donation puzzle.

What Is It?

Charity Navigator, a nonprofit, independent charity evaluator, was launched in 2001 with the mission to assist individuals in making informed, intelligent giving decisions. Note the emphasis upon individual donors; Charity Navigator only evaluates charities that depend on support largely from individual givers. Individual support needs must be greater than $500,000 and total revenue must be more than $1M.

How Does It Work?

According to their website, Charity Navigator evaluates nonprofits based on two broad areas of performance: financial health and accountability & transparency. Their methodology for evaluation is extensive, resulting in a large database searchable by a number of criteria. Some examples of documentation required for evaluation include seven years’ of form 990s; proof of adherence and commitment to mission statement; and CEO pay.

Ratings show prospective donors how efficiently Charity Navigator believes a charity will use their support currently; how well it has sustained its programs and services over time; and their level of commitment to being accountable and transparent.

Donors can search Charity Navigator’s database by sector, sub-sector, location, and revenue. Results show detailed information about each charity, their Charity Navigator ranking, and all factors that have gone into the evaluation process.

Why Should Donors and Charities Trust Charity Navigator?

Good question, and we’d be worried if you weren’t wondering this! Perhaps the most important reason we trust them is that they do not accept advertising or donations from any of the organizations they evaluate. All organizations undergo the same evaluation process without bias or preference.

But another equally important reason is Charity Navigator has proven they’re a dynamic organization that keeps pace with the rapidly changing technological times.  For example, Charity Navigator’s mission statement has expanded from “guiding intelligent giving” to “creating a more efficient and responsive donor marketplace.” Donors and charities alike can rest assured Charity Navigator will remain current and relevant.

How Will It Increase Our Individual Donorship?

  1. Provides clear benchmarking and analytics for your sector – Prior to our recent age of centralized data collection and infographics, nonprofits had few benchmarking measures other than painstakingly combing through other organizations’ form 990s. But no more. Charity Navigator’s evaluation metrics reveal which aspects individual donors value the most about an organization. This will give you a quick, clear picture of what areas within your organization you need to focus on in order to appeal to donors.
  2. Gives data to use as leverage with your Board of Directors – Picture this: You have a fabulous idea for a relatively new donor strategy. You know that other charities in your sector are starting to use it with success, and you feel confident your organization can join the ranks. You take the idea to the next board meeting, and . . . crickets. Not exactly the reaction you’d hoped for. But with the reports available on Charity Navigator, you’ll have the specific data necessary to back up your idea with confidence.
  3. Shows donors you’re “Charity Navigator approved” – You don’t have to have the highest ranking on Charity Navigator for it to make a difference in your donorships. Simply promoting that you’re part of Charity Navigator on your website and social media shows two things: 1) you have your finger on the pulse of what’s current, and 2) by being completely transparent in all areas of operations, you genuinely believe in your organization’s cause.
  4. The “Tips for Donors” page will inform your donor strategy – The most important page on Charity Navigator’s website for organizations might just be the one that’s been created for donors. On the “Tips for Donors” page, Charity Navigator offers extensive advice to prospective donors, including: questions to ask charities before donating, the top 10 best practices of savvy donors, and tips for giving in times of crisis. This critical information helps your organization shape their donor strategy to respond exactly to what your prospective donors will be looking for.

Technology will continue to shape and define all aspects of business. But cause-driven organizations are particularly sensitive to these technological advances because their revenue stream is so heavily dependent upon an informed public. So, don’t be afraid to help inform them! Using Charity Navigator as part of your donation strategy will show yours is a dynamic organization that knows what it’s doing.


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