By Ken Berger, Charity Navigator
Four years ago when I began working at Charity Navigator, I went on a “listening tour” to see what concerned experts in the field about our rating system. The fundamental concern expressed by many was that we were not factoring in what matters most: the results (especially outcomes) of the work of the charities we analyze. That feedback, among other things, led us to make a commitment to upgrade our rating system over time in the direction they had counseled.
After a few years of research, funded by one large and a number of small foundations, we came to the conclusion that there is a fundamental problem with the experts’ suggestion. Essentially, for the vast majority of charitable causes, there is no publically available information on results. In other words, most charities either do not currently compile such information or if they do, they are unwilling to share it publically.
The traditional nonprofit culture is to not make waves (unless you are an advocacy organization) and keep a low profile. Nonprofits don’t want to give stakeholders any reason to weaken their trust in them. Nor do they want to give competitors any leg up by learning sensitive information about the vulnerabilities of internal operations. Therefore, the increasing emphasis on transparency about performance is resisted by many.