Inside Charity Navigator w/ CEO Michael Thatcher
Imagine trying to keep the peace – and sometimes police — over 1.5M charities in this country alone. Which ones are making the most impact with their money, which ones are keeping it real, and, sadly, which charities aren’t even real.
It’s one of the main reasons we’re thrilled to be able to rely on the “intelligence giving” tracker Charity Navigator. If you don’t know them, learn more here.
Charity Navigator CEO, Michael Thatcher and I became fast friends a little under a year ago. With that, I’ll bring you into the conversation we had a few days back.
RYAN: What’s up Michael. I’m grateful to have a little bit of your time today. I know how busy you are. So there are no surprises here, I’ll most likely turn this into a blog post as well.
MICHAEL: No issue at all. Hope the sock game is going well? I’m sure you’re a bit busy too!
RYAN: Do you remember where we met? Will you share?
MICHAEL: We met at The Human Gathering. I remember you coming up to me and you were excited about this new idea you had. I remember thinking, I don’t know what this guy is up to but it’s a catchy name. In truth, it sounded insane and somehow made perfect sense. Your overall enthusiasm is what got me. So I was optimistic.
RYAN: I like that. Totally insane and, yet, totally makes sense. I’ll take that. Can you share a little bit about your professional background?
MICHAEL: My dad was a computer wizard. I got into computer programming and playing with computers as a child during the pre-digital age. I built a familiarity with that – and it made me better as an artist. I loved the arts – and I love the environment, the ocean and nature – which I owe a lot to my dad who was an Ocean Engineer. Probably not a surprise that years later, it led me to Microsoft where I eventually took on the CTO job. I’m a technologist but I’m not fascinated with the nuts and bolts of technology. I’m fascinating on what it can enable. When I moved inside the CTO role in the public sector, it really put me on my path to where I am today. The enabling function of technology and creating the greatest amount of meaningful impact was my happy place.
RYAN: Coming off that background, why Charity Navigator for you?
MICHAEL: Charity Navigator was a bit of a red herring for me. It was a board member who sold me on it. But when you care about the arts and you care about social justice, then you’re all for coming up with an effective scoring system that can make a huge and meaningful impact.
RYAN: Give me the cliff notes version of Charity Navigator. What is it?
MICHAEL: Charity Navigator is the largest independent charity evaluator in the US today. It helps guide intelligent giving, and provides ratings for more than 9000 non-profits. It also has a full data set of the 1.6M legal charities in the US. We aspire to be the Fitbit of the sector and our mission is to make impactful philanthropy easy for all.
RYAN: Why is there a need for a Charity Navigator in this world?
MICHAEL: We need an independent evaluation to increase confidence for the average donor. One of the worries many donors have is being victimized by a scam – sadly they are out there. So by having an independent evaluator we can help people who mean well to avoid falling into a dark hole.
RYAN This is the very reason we pull your Charity Navigator transparency rating and financial rating into our product pages at Sock Problems. What about Sock Problems is working for you?
MICHAEL: Well, it’s not just a pretty sock. I mean, I love that it is a pretty sock that’s making a social statement but it’s much more targeted that most of the ‘give one, get one’ companies. What I love is your donating cash and you’ve done the due diligence – and ran through the process of vetting your non-profits.
There’s many layers. The visual layer that is reminding me of the issue. And, as mentioned, it’s a quality sock. I won’t throw it away because it’s a good quality. Packaging is good also! By the way, shipping was quick. Kudos on delivery and the packaging. I liked the end-to-end experience.
RYAN: Let the record show we didn’t send you socks! You put in your own order here. So…what problems did you choose to “sock”?
MICHAEL: I care about the environment so Socks & Chill (sock climate change) and Undangered (sock extinction) were top on the list. Cancer runs in my family so I went with the Flying Cans (sock breast cancer) which I love the design, and Mega Ribbon (sock cancer).
RYAN: Have you given them out to anyone?
MICHAEL: Oh, these are Xmas presents.
RYAN: One final question and then I’ll give you your life back. If there were a problem in the world you hope we’d consider “socking”, that we haven’t addressed, what would it be?
There are a couple. Something around the arts and education. How do you provide access to the arts for under served communities. How do we help kids get access to art in education.
And then a sock that brings awareness to the refugee situation going on all around the world. There are millions of people living in refugee camps who may also die there. It’s not a US issue or a Syrian issue – it’s a human race problem.
RYAN: We review what our next sock is going to be on a weekly basis so I will certainly take these back to the team. Michael, thank you so much for giving us some of your time today and for being such an advocate for Sock Problems. Happy holidays.
MICHAEL: Same to you and yours Ryan. Keep at it!