Charity Navigator Seeks New CEO

April 2, 2015       Paul Clolery      

Charity Navigator, the sometimes controversial rating system of nonprofits, has made a change at the top. President and CEO Ken Berger (pictured right) has left the organization as the board seeks a chief executive with a deep technology background.

The Glen Rock, N.J., organization is working on what Founder and Board Chairman John P. “Pat” Dugan called “Charity Navigator 3.0,” which will involve a more concentrated technology focus as the organization moves to monitoring and reporting outcomes.

“It was a resignation, in a sense,” said Dugan. “It is a very amicable parting of the ways.” Berger’s skills were more in coordination and articulating the organization’s message, he said. “He wasn’t totally out of touch with technology,” said Dugan, but the organization requires a deeper knowledge.

Several career technology and information executives have been added to Charity Navigator’s board. Some of those additions include: Matt Giegerich, president & CEO of Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide; Luke Beatty, Head of Product, for AOL; Marie Wieck, GM, Application Integration Middleware & WebSphere for IBM US; and, and Kern Schireson, executive vice president, Data Strategy & Consumer Intelligence for Viacom Media Networks.

“If we are going to pull off 3.0, and we are going to pull it off, we had to start at the top. We needed someone deeper in technology,” said Dugan. The goal, he said, is to evaluate 20,000 charities, upping it from the 8,000 currently rated.

After a period of months talking about what’s next for Charity Navigator, Berger said one of the goals was to significantly increase the board’s membership, especially from the technology world. “Based upon that, the organization came to the conclusion that increasingly seeing themselves as tech company. And so, leadership needs to be tech savvy, in terms of big data and being data savvy, and that’s not my skill set,” he said. The board was made up of nine members when Berger became CEO in 2008 and today there are 16, with at least four who are from the technology side of things.

“It was a mutually amicable and friendly departure for me,” said Berger, who will continue to finish a book about charitable giving and Charity Navigator. He hopes to continue to do work in and for the philanthropic community in some way.

“In the context of where we go from here, beyond Charity Navigator 3.0, what’s next for Charity Navigator. One example, how do we automate if you will some of the data compilation such that staff and analysts can more effectively use their time on qualitative analytics,” Berger said.

“I always thought of Charity Navigator as a critical friend of the sector: critically important in a number of ways, but also critical, speaking out more bluntly, good as well as bad, because of its outside role, because they make judgments on performance of charities.”

“Charity Navigator 3.0” will aim to provide more in-depth data and add results reporting metrics to existing financial health, accountability and transparency benchmarks. During Berger’s tenure, the organization also made policy changes to its ratings, including changing how it classifies joint cost allocation, a move that raised the ire of some nonprofits.

Last November, the board approved a plan to scale up operations, with a goal to double the number of charities rated by the end of 2016. The plan would require raising some $8.5 million over the next three years to help fund the expansion, which also includes doubling staff size by the end of this year, including hiring a chief operating officer. This year, the budget is planned to increase by $1 million, to $2.5 million, with a plan to increase by $1.5 million next year.

Tim Gamory, Charity Navigator’s chief information officer, is now acting chief operating officer. A search is under way for the top position but a search firm has not yet been selected, Dugan said.

Berger joined Charity Navigator in 2008 after almost 30 years working in the charitable nonprofit sector. He held leadership positions at a variety of human service and health care agencies, both large and small, and operated programs serving many underserved populations including the homeless, the developmentally disabled, the mentally ill, substance abusers, the medically needy, and persons with HIV/AIDS.

For the fiscal year ending November 2013, the most recent tax form available on its website, Charity Navigator reported $1.6 million in total revenue, with net assets of $2.57 million. Berger earned total compensation of $162,611, including a base salary of $152,215.