By Amy Hines, Senior Vice President, The Alford Group
With the start of an unprecedented intergenerational wealth transfer, not-for-profits have a lot to gain by avoiding any inadvertent pitfalls that deter potential donors from contributing to their efforts. With access to the internet, donors do not have to rely on government scrutiny to avoid unscrupulous charities (Besides, government entities have limited authority as watchdogs). Donors can look for evidence themselves, vetting charities with a tap or a click.
Maintaining integrity is key—but ensuring that an organization’s optics convey that integrity is also essential.
A potential donor’s due diligence before opening her wallet, is likely to take place by heeding to the credo–“follow the money.” While that may in fact be just a line in a movie, it resonates in the philanthropic ether as a sound way to approach investigating an organization’s worthiness.
How do potential donors assess the money trail? There are several logical ways:
- Look at the organization’s website to see if financial information is being reported in a transparent way.
- Go online to GuideStar, the primary resource for accessing an organization’s IRS 990 and comparing similar organizations.
- Go online to Charity Navigator to see how the organization is rated.
- Go online to BBB Wise Giving, to check out whether they have been accredited as a trustworthy national organization.
It’s important for not-for-profits to manage the optics of their organizations in these four locations. Here’s how. Continue reading
Today, June 20, 2011, the latest Giving USA numbers were released by the Giving USA Foundation estimating the giving for 2010 based on the recently released actual numbers for 2008 to include their re-revised numbers for 2009. In past years the revised numbers were usually revised upward. Due to the recession that began in late 2007 and carried through 2008 and 2009, the revision was downward and has created a little (or a lot of) angst among some in the not-for-profit community. Continue reading
This past week I was away from Seattle doing client work for a national organization with many programs around the country and the world. They are doing incredibly good work for a large number of people and have significant volunteer and donor support. Over the past four years they have seen a decline in their giving to one particular program and they are attempting to discover why—hence our firm’s involvement.
One of their affiliates arranged for two focus groups. The first was comprised of people who did not support this particular program, the second was comprised of people who did. It was a wonderful contrast of communication, style, personality, trust and values.
A common trait was that both groups are generous and both groups significantly give of their resources especially for local programs. I find it very rewarding to be around generous people: they know who they are; they know what they value; they care about the community, their neighbors and people they may never know. It was enjoyable to discuss the programs with both groups, who asked specific, well-stated questions.
Here are several things I discovered from these two groups:
- Some people just need more information than others. The donor group was trusting and required little information to respond to the need. The non-donor group needed a lot of data and felt they were not getting it.
- Some people judge an organization as a whole, while others are selective in their judgment. The non-donor group had larger issues with the national organization and although those issues did not relate to the program being discussed, it kept them from responding to the financial need. The donor group had the ability to put aside any issues they may have around other national policies or procedures and respond to this particular need.
- “Connectivity” is different for different people. The individuals in the non-donor group felt more connected locally and wondered why a national connection was necessary. The donor group felt connections both locally and nationally. They valued being connected nationally because they, as individuals, could do even more and have greater impact on people’s lives, than they ever could as an individual or local group.
After the time spent with both groups, I also discovered the importance of leadership around these three observations. Leadership (staff and volunteer) needs to take the observations above to heart as they communicate with both donors and non-donors. Why are these programs important? Why must we respond to the need the programs are addressing? What is the impact now? What will be the impact in the future? Will you join with me and the many others in our organization who financially support these programs in giving what you can?
As you reflect on the ideas and observations here, let me or the other readers know your thoughts or experiences around donors and non-donors. I look forward to reading your comments.
All the best,