The following post was written by Kelly Rowan, the Outreach & Resource Manager at the Charities Review Council.
According to Giving USA, Americans gave an estimated $307.65 billion to charities in 2008. Although a two percent drop in current dollars over 2007, this is a staggering number, especially considering the tightening in our budgets due to the challenging economic recession. As nonprofits strive to meet growing needs in our communities, donors want to feel confident that their hard-earned contributions will do the most good. What can and should charities be doing to protect and nurture this community-minded generosity?
As stated in the Fundraising section of MCN’s Principles and Practices, “(n)onprofit organizations are responsible for conducting their fundraising activities in a manner that upholds the public’s trust in stewardship of contributed funds”.
There are many ways of honoring this responsibility, and organizations should have thoughtful and proactive conversations about which ones to implement. One of the most commonly cited lists of expectations is the Donor Bill of Rights, developed by the Association of Fundraising Professionals and others.
In the coming weeks, we will be highlighting the most essential practices that have been recommended and reinforced by the members of our board Program Committee, experts in the areas addressed, as well as focus groups.
We begin with the Fundraising Disclosure Standard, which maintains that we should certainly expect that charities will clearly identify themselves in their solicitations by providing their address or phone number. Solicitations should also describe how donations will be used. While these seem to be such simple, common-sense expectations, I am reminded of how important stating this information clearly can be for donors, as illustrated in my co-worker, Amy Sinykin’s, previous What’s in a Name? post. We must be wary of organizations taking advantage of well-respected and established charities’ names to mislead donors into supporting them. This can damage the public’s trust and be detrimental to the charitable sector as a whole.
Are there other basic expectations we should address here for what a charity discloses to donors through their solicitations? Please weigh-in, and check back here to discuss the Voluntary and Charitable Giving Standard later this week.