New web site reviews 77 animal-related organizations
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2002:
MAHWAH, N.J.–The online philanthropic evaluation service
Charity Navigator debuted on April 15 at <www.charitynavigator.org>,
offering statistical assessments of 77 U.S.-based animal-related
charities, among 1,100 charities reviewed in all.
Founded by John P. Dugan, described by Bruce Mohl of the
Boston Globe as “a New Jersey businessman who became wealthy running
a pharmaceutical sales company,” Charity Navigator is managed
day-to-day by executive director Trent Stamp and deputy director Kyle
Charity Navigator aspires, their web site claims, to
“revolutionize the charitable marketplace” by demanding from “our
country’s largest non-profit organizations the same level of
accountability as [is expected from] publicly traded for-profit
“Today, we look only at the financial aspects of an
organization,” Charity Navigator acknowledged. This is partly due to
our insistence on only reviewing quantifiable and reliable data, and
partly due to the fact that the 990 is the only piece of publicly
accessible information available.”
In fact, the most recent IRS Form 990 filing from virtually
any U.S. charity is now accessible online at <www.guide-star.org>,
which posts the filings in Adobe Acrobat format under contract to the
The statistical evaluation done by Charity Navigator involves
only assessments of the data as given by the charities, with no
attempt made either to determine whether the data is accurate, or to
reappraise the data using a uniform accounting standard so that all
charities are compared on an equal footing.
Thus Charity Navigator furnishes less reliable information
than the Wise Giving Alliance and the American Institute of
Philanthropy, which do similar evaluations across the spectrum of
charities, and also examine audited financial statements.
The annual fall ANIMAL PEOPLE “Who gets the money?” feature
goes beyond that level to look as well at executive salaries and
other economic accountability issues. The annual spring ANIMAL
PEOPLE Watchdog Report on 101 Animal Protection Charities, published
as a separate handbook at $20/copy, also reviews the programs and
policies of organizations to ensure that they accurately represent
themselves to donors. Neither the Wise Giving Alliance, American
Institute of Philanthropy, nor Charity Navigator looks at the
accuracy of program-and-policy representations, as yet.
“With time, industry acceptance, and demand from the giving
public,” Charity Navigator said, “we hope to also focus on the
output side of a charity. We will be able to determine not only how
much of a charity’s funding goes to program expenses, but how
effective the charity is at maximizing what they do. Today, we can
tell you how much of The Ocean Conservancy’s budget goes to cleaning
up the ocean. Tomorrow, we hope to tell you how clean they got the
Exactly how this might be done, Dugan, Stamp, and Wade
have yet to say.
The Wise Giving Alliance, American Institute of
Philanthropy, and Charity Navigator differ from ANIMAL PEOPLE in
rating charities, based on their opinions of economic performance.
Charity Navigator, for instance, assigns stars to charities, as a
reviewer of restaurants or hotels would.
Aware of broad philosophical differences among animal
protection donors about what charities should do and how they should
operate, ANIMAL PEOPLE tries to provide a factual and contextual
basis for making choices, while leaving the actual choosing up to
each individual reader.
By contrast, Charity Navigator appears to presume that
charities should build their assets in much the same manner as
for-profit companies–but many animal protection donors prefer that
funds be spent to prevent or alleviate animal suffering now, not be
hoarded in an investment account.