[Case Study] How Charity Navigator Enhanced Their Campaign Results with Enriched Analytics

How Charity Navigator lifted its 2020 Giving Season campaign outcome with the power of Enriched Analytics.


Charity Navigator is not only the world’s largest and most trusted independent charity evaluator – it’s a nonprofit, too! It depends on public support to equip the philanthropic community with tools and resources to inform decision-making, evaluating around 9,000 of the nation’s largest nonprofits through its 0-4 star rating methodology. As of July 2020, Charity Navigator rates an additional 150,000+ charities through its new Encompass Rating System. Encompass-rated charities tend to be more recently established, smaller charities compared to Star-rated organizations, as the eligibility criteria for Encompass is much less restrictive than that of the long-standing star rating methodology.

About 80% of Charity Navigator’s annual revenue comes from smaller dollar donors, donating around $50 each year. Like the majority of the nonprofit sector, Charity Navigator raises a great deal of its annual funding during the Giving Season, November and December.

Charity Navigator saw great success by harnessing the power of Enriched Analytics during its 2020 Giving Season campaign. It allowed the fundraising team to spend budgeted fundraising expenses in a smarter, more targeted way. The organization focused on acquiring new donors, asking existing donors who have the capacity to give at a higher level to do so, and converting donors to monthly supporters.

Top Outcome

We looked at a pool of potential new donors that Charity Navigator considered sending direct mail to and assigned scores to each contact based on their likelihood to become a new donor. Charity Navigator mailed the highest scoring contacts.

During their 2020 Giving Season campaign, thanks to the help of boodleAI, Charity Navigator converted 5.7% of the new donor prospects who were mailed as compared to only 3.2% during the 2019 Giving Season campaign. In turn, revenue for this segment rose by 42%.  


Charity Navigator wanted to acquire more new donors while increasing its overall campaign revenue. The organization’s millions of annual site visitors often focus on donating to the causes that are near to their heart, and unintentionally overlook the opportunity to donate to Charity Navigator.

Charity Navigator also wanted to elevate the giving of their existing donors who have a much higher giving capacity than the clip at which they were currently giving, and the organization wanted to move some of its multi-year donors into its monthly donor program.


Charity Navigator possessed an expansive dataset with over 25,000 prospective donor records for contacts that had recently used their site’s Giving Basket to donate to other charities. The organization also supplied us with a list of 20,000 of their existing donors who they thought could elevate their giving or become monthly donors. However, due to budget constraints, the development team knew they would not be able to target everyone in their contact list with the year-end direct mail piece. We needed to find those on their list who were the best and most responsive targets based on what they wanted to achieve. People like to receive relatable messaging that makes them feel special with their interests understood by the organization reaching out to them. To ensure Charity Navigator sent the appropriate messaging for its campaign, we wanted to find the people that looked like their greatest supporters. 

The Goal

Reach an audience where the development team’s messaging will resonate and recipients will be likely to respond to the donate call to action.

The Solution

Enriched. Empowered. Elevated Results.

We enhanced Charity Navigator’s contact list and expanded the development team’s knowledge by introducing them to their donors’ overall persona. The list was segmented into three different types of supporters, and each segment’s persona was revealed to the team. By scoring each contact on a scale of most to least likely to respond, the team was able to sharpen their communications and segmentation for 17,000 contacts most likely to take the action at the crux of three scores – hidden gems (or donors who could be giving at a higher capacity), non-donors, and potential monthly donors. Once equipped with the enriched data and analytical knowledge, Charity Navigator’s team was empowered to target only the most likely respondents with their campaign using direct messaging to pique their interest. And the responses rolled in.

The Tools

Here are the tools we provided that elevated Charity Navigator’s year-end fundraising campaign – converting more new donors and increasing overall campaign revenue.

Data Enrichment & Analytics

Charity Navigator delivered a contact list of their existing and prospect supporters. Over 1,200 third-party data points were added to each record, ultimately defining the persona of their overall donor pool. The team received a complete view of each contact by combining the persona with predictive analytic insights. With this information, the team discovered the demographics, interests, predicted wealth ratings, predicted donation capacity, and predicted channel preferences of their donors.


We created specific segments within their contact lists to help the team really understand the different donors in their community.  We segmented their contact list into three areas: hidden gems, non-donors who used their services, and donors who were not monthly recurring donors. The persona was revealed for each segment, and ultimately, became the primary focus for the end of year fundraising campaign.

Custom Models

To take it a step further, Custom predictive models (Custom Guidons) were built to expand their donor knowledge even further. The Custom Guidons were designed to define the overall characteristics of the donors in each segment so Charity Navigator could use the models at scale. From there, each Custom Guidon was run against a selected list of contacts, giving each record a “Guidon score”. The Guidon score ultimately ranked each contact numerically based on their “likeness” to the model. We made three custom models to identify their target audience.

Custom Model One:
Hidden Gems

This Custom Guidon was created to detect the people within Charity Navigator’s donor list who had the potential of being their best donors. Using training data containing their best donors, we created a model that could be run against any donor list to detect individuals with the same characteristics. By running this model, the number of prospects was reduced from 20,000 potential donors to 3,500 hidden gems for the team to seek out.  

Custom Model Two:
Non-donors who used their services

We created this Custom Guidon to find people within the list of non-donors who used Charity Navigator’s services (e.g., ratings, tips for donors, Giving Basket) that had the potential of becoming Charity Navigator supporters. For training data, we used its list of donors who had converted after prior use of their services. Then, created a model to detect the same type of people within any non-donor list. This model reduced a list of 25,000 potential donors to 11,000 prospects for the team to target.

Custom Model Three:
Donors who were not monthly donors

A Custom Guidon was built to reveal donors who were most likely to support their work on a monthly basis. Using data about their monthly donors’ characteristics as training data, we created a model to find other donors in their community who looked most like their monthly donors. With this model, we were able to reduce the number of people in their prospect list from 20,000 potential monthly donors to 2,500 possible respondents for the team to approach.

“When you actually start using [boodleAI’s Platform], you are like ‘Wow, this is really easy to use.’ I was able to get everything that I needed from it in less than a day… It is so intuitive.”

Kyle Gardner, Director of Direct Response | Charity Navigator


As the Charity Navigator development team strategized their year-end campaign, the efficiency and overall effectiveness of the campaign was heightened by applying boodleAI in their workflow. The team determined its target audience segments with a more informed understanding of its supporters than they previously possessed. And, the time it took them to do so: less than one day. Kyle stated that the process was so fast, and the decision was backed by far better data than they could have come up with on their own. It allowed the team to remain attentive to the overall goal of the campaign and direct their strategy based on intention.


Charity Navigator’s year-end campaign was a terrific success. It resulted in an increase in revenue and converted more non-donors into donors than the previous year’s campaign. In fact, the campaign’s huge success allowed the team to add an entire new segment into their Spring campaign target audience, targeting non-donors. The organization had never previously folded in a non-donors segment into their direct mail Spring campaign, but they are able to now because they know that they will be able to see a good ROI by targeting smarter with their limited budget.

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About boodleAI

boodleAI is a Cloud-Based Provider of Enriched Analytics for sales, marketing, and fundraising teams. Enriched Analytics are insights and predictions made possible by matching an organization’s contact and transaction data with billions of third party data points. Sales, marketing, and fundraising teams use enriched analytics to better understand customers and donors, analyze sales and donations, gain insights into specific contacts, and predict what contacts will do. Guidon, boodleAI’s Cloud-Based Software, makes Enriched Analytics available to every organization and every budget through usage based pricing. Visit boodle.ai.