52 Tips in 52 Weeks: 52 Tips in 52 Weeks: Can Your Donors Easily Learn about your Organization?

December 18, 2020

Last night I sat on my couch with my laptop considering my year-end charitable giving. Where to give this year?  Should I stick with those I gave to last year or give to organizations I haven’t supported in the past? Can I make all of my gifts online? Or will I have to find my checkbook and stamps? Apparently, I am not alone. According to research from the NP Source, 30% of nonprofit giving occurs in the last month of the year. Wow! That is a bit breathtaking!

I was talking with a friend earlier this week who was lamenting the fact while she is considering gifts to nonprofits that are new to her, she was really frustrated that so many groups did not have basic information on their website.  She said that although organizations usually do a great job describing their programs, information about the leadership staff and board members and the organization’s basic finances is often missing. When such basic information is missing, she questions the organization’s lack of transparency and whether the organization is even real!

Since launching in 1998, the Standards for Excellence: An Ethics and Accountability Code for the Nonprofit Sector has encouraged nonprofits to publish and make an annual report available to the public.  The code states “Information about the organization’s mission, program activities, finances, board members, and staff should be easily accessible, accurate, and timely (i.e., updated at least annually).” Certainly placing an annual report or annual report data on an organization’s website is not only a best practice in nonprofit management but an expectation in the eyes of many.

In this season of year-end giving (and all year!), it is imperative that nonprofits ensure that the giving process is as seamless as possible for donors and the public. As part of this, nonprofits should:

  1. take the time to ensure that their online giving portals are working well,
  2. ensure that gifts are followed up with receipts and acknowledgements with appropriate disclosure language that will allow their donors to take tax deductions as allowed and appropriate,
  3. make sure that solicitations are accurate, truthful and do not place undue pressure on donors, and
  4. make information about the organization’s mission, program activities, finances, board members, and staff available and easy to access

More information is available in the Standards for Excellence educational packet on educating and engaging the public, which includes information on annual reports, as well as other methods for communicating with the public.

This educational resource packet and the full series of all packets  – including sample policies, tools and model procedures to help nonprofits achieve best practices in their governance and management – can be accessed by contacting a licensed Standards for Excellence replication partner, one of the over 150 Standards for Excellence Licensed Consultants, or by becoming a member of the Standards for Excellence Institute.

Amy Coates Madsen is the Director of Programs for Maryland Nonprofits and the Director of the Standards for Excellence Institute, a national initiative to promote the highest standards of ethics and accountability in nonprofit governance, management, and operations, and to facilitate adherence to standards by all organizations. The Standards for Excellence Institute is a program of the Maryland Association of Nonprofit Organizations where Amy has served for more than twenty-four years. Amy is responsible for coordinating all aspects of the association’s comprehensive ethics and accountability program and efforts to replicate the program nationally. She serves as a frequent trainer and writer in the areas of board conduct, program evaluation, program replication, fundraising ethics, and nonprofit management. She has taught courses on nonprofit ethics and accountability at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies Certificate Program on Nonprofit Management.