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Op-Ed: Former Microsoft CTO is now CEO of Charity Navigator (Includes interview)

According to sources from the National Center for Charitable Statistics, 72 percent of Americans give as individuals to a cause or charity.
This is something Michael Thatcher, the newly appointed CEO of Charity Navigator, sees as both significant and very important: “America is among the very few nations in the world that provides tax incentives to encourage people to give.” And besides that, beyond any tax incentives, he believes that Americans are the most generous people on earth when they are inspired to give.
The New Jersey based company is a charitable-information resource guide. It announced on August 5 that Thatcher would be taking over as CEO. Charity Navigator is the largest expert charity evaluator in America. Its website attracts more visitors than all other charity rating groups combined, providing transparency and accountability to more than 8,000 charities.
Thatcher takes the helm of Charity Navigator with what he described as a “diverse background.”
He talked to this reporter briefly amid his busy schedule. Yet, he wanted to let people know he sees charitable giving as important and vital. And, he realizes ultimately it is about trust.

Former CTO of Microsoft Michael Thatcher is taking the CEO position at Charity Navigator.

Former CTO of Microsoft Michael Thatcher is taking the CEO position at Charity Navigator.
Courtesy of Michael Thatcher

Thatcher brings a successful track record to Charity Navigator as a technology executive. He has a reputation for achieving desired results and a passion for using technology as a tool to advance social good. “I want to bring the wide breadth of experience I have in technology and help bring Charity Navigator to the next level,” he said. “I love what the people at Charity Navigator are doing. It is a great service to the non-profit sector and I want to help establish firm standards of measurement and eliminate fears to the donor community.”
He pointed out that there are over 1.5 million non-profit organizations in the U.S. and he understands the importance of implementing strong leadership and management skills to help Charity Navigator be the source for information. When people give, especially when they give from their hearts, at a grass roots level, Thatcher believes that all people want to see an impact. “They want to know that their dollars landed where they needed to go to do the most good for a cause or charity.”
Charity Navigator’s founder and Chairman of the Board John P. Dugan, has a lot of confidence in Thatcher’s abilities and believes he will uphold the guiding principles and on-going mission of Charity Navigator.
“We strongly believe Michael is the right person to drive the expansion of our rating system, said Dugan, and to grow the number of donors who utilize our service.”
Thatcher and the staff at Charity Navigator want to help provide all the information and tools needed to give intelligently. Being able to give with a clear sense of direction and understanding of where charitable dollars are going is empowering. This is essential to those who are inspired to give. Thatcher sees this clearly and wants to uphold that with a sense of duty and commitment to excellence.
Prior to joining Charity Navigator, Thatcher spent more than 15 years with Microsoft. Most recently, he was their Public Sector Chief Technology Officer (CTO) responsible for technology policy initiatives and engagements with government and academic leaders in the Middle-East, Africa and Asia. “Coming from Microsoft, scale and detail is everything,” he said. “Charity is a hard thing to measure,” he said. Thatcher is eager to find out and to build the tools and standards that will help make the abstract more tangible. “First of all, he said, it requires collaboration and cooperation. What I bring from my experience to Charity Navigator is that type of experience and understanding,” he said.
Based in Singapore since 2010, he led a team of nationally focused CTOs and technical development strategists across greater Asia. Thatcher’s experiences include technically supporting oceanographic research for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, co-founding and directing an international performing arts organization, as well as serving on the board of directors of several nonprofits focused on the arts, the environment, and information technology standards development. He most recently joined Keystone Accountabilities’ Board of Trustees.
Speaking on behalf of Keystone Accountabilities, David Bonbright, CEO applauded the decision to place Thatcher in command. “Charity Navigator needs someone like Michael because he has the ability to bring people together. He also has an understanding of the need for accurate and reliable information and assistance from a customer/user perspective.” This is especially so regarding the non-profit sector, Bonbright emphasized this as he spoke, because he said, I have seen Michael at work. “When he was working with government and technology administrations overseas, Michael was very interesting to watch.” He helped to get things done that previously had not been able to be done.” Bonbright considered that a tremendous ability and that Charity Navigator is very fortunate to have Thatcher.
His colleagues from Microsoft, like Oliver Bell and Randy Ramusack agree. As Bell said, “I was thrilled when Michael first shared the details of his new role with me.” Bell was a former CTO at Microsoft, focusing on the Development and Humanitarian Organizations from the Washington D.C. Area.”He and I have worked together in various senior positions at Microsoft over the last two decades,” said Bell. “During that time Michael was always a keen, capable and strategic problem solver,” he said. “But more importantly Michael was always a leader in ensuring that we could all find ways to understand the impact of our work on the people and geographies that we served outside of the company. Charity Navigator strikes me as a place where he can bring all of those passions together, and where he will make a significant, positive and inclusive difference,” said Bell.

Ramusack when speaking about Thatcher, simply said, “Michael is an amazing guy!” He has known Thatcher for over a decade and seven of those years were when they worked collaboratively for Microsoft. “Michael is really good at being diplomatic, said Ramusack, especially in some really difficult situations.” He noted that back in the late 1990’s and early 2000s, bringing technology and new ideas to places like the Middle East and Africa was not an easy job. “Michael always maintained a high-level of professionalism,” said Ramusack. But what impressed him most was as he said, “Michael is always fair, tells the whole story and works honestly with people.” “What is also amazing about Michael, said Ramusack is whether he is working with a small group or large group, he is easy-going and approachable. And, he is the one people go to and confide in.” This is something Ramusack sees as very important.

Thatcher said he wants to eliminate the really cumbersome aspects to giving, not only for businesses and organizations who want to give but also for individuals. The ability to check and double check the transparency and accountability of a charitable cause or group with ease for a consumer/customer is at the top of his list.

When asked what he would like to accomplish first as among his most important goals, “talk to me after the next three months,” he said. Thatcher laughed a little saying, “it is really important during the first 100 days to organize the teams.” No doubt the teams he is gathering together will be part of his ability to coordinate and form collaborations, so things get done and are done well. “It is all part of Intelligent giving with heart,” that is my initial aim and then as I said I hope to take Charity Navigator to the next level and even farther.”
For more information about Charity Navigator, visit the Charity Navigator web site.

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