New Startup Aims to Empower Donors With Information, Community

Giving Compass's goal is to enable people to make wise decisions about making an impact with their philanthropy.

We all know about Charity Navigator and GuideStar, and how they are used by savvy donors and advisors to help provide direction for effective giving.

But now there’s a new game in town. Giving Compass wants to be the go-to destination for the world of philanthropy.

In spite of the fact that Americans are donating almost $400 billion to charities every year, most people spend very little time figuring out which nonprofits are effective in achieving their goals.

Giving Compass hopes to empower donors to make sure their gifts are making a real, meaningful difference. Not only does it provide users with information about charities, it helps them to learn about charitable giving and builds community around philanthropy.

“The amount of money being given in this country is mind-blowing,” Giving Compass CEO and Co-Founder Luis Salazar told GeekWire. “What is the impact of that, is the core question, and how do we make it more impactful?”

Giving Compass launched about a year ago, and it’s funded mainly with a catalyst grant from the Raikes Foundation, which was established by former Gates Foundation CEO and Microsoft executive Jeff Raikes and his wife, Tricia, who also came from Microsoft. Even Salazar came from Microsoft—he was the co-founder of Office 365.

So far, Giving Compass has impressed many people in philanthropy. They are particularly happy with the diverse backgrounds of the staff and board (it includes technology, philanthropy, and marketing experts), and they say there’s a huge need for educating donors.

The creators of Giving Compass say they’re not trying to push donors in any particular direction. “We’re not trying to remove the heart in favor of the head,” said Giving Compass Chief Marketing Officer Shelly Kurtz. Instead, they hope people will consider multiple approaches when choosing where to make their donations.

Giving Compass differs from most charity monitoring sites in that it works more to help potential donors realize the impact a nonprofit is having rather than focusing exclusively on measures like overhead ratios.

“That is where people go wrong when they’re trying to have impact,” said Katherine Lorenz, board chair for The Philanthropy Workshop. “They’re starving the whole sector.”

If nonprofits need to focus so intensely on keeping costs down in order to impress a donor, they may well starve themselves by being unable to make needed technology upgrades or staff training, both of which are needed in order for a nonprofit to be able to carry out its mission.

“A lot of people don’t know what they’re interested in, and coming into philanthropy for the first time it can be overwhelming,” said Sarah Hopper, founder of Sound Philanthropy, a Seattle business that advises people in their giving.

Giving Compass hopes that by providing information about charities’ performance, they will be able to give donors a better picture of the impact those nonprofits have.

“We’re asking people to give us five minutes a week to spend on outcome-driven philanthropy,” said Kurtz. “You can break that down into bite-size pieces.”

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