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


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.

By Amy Coates Madsen | December 18, 2020 | Nonprofit
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About the Author: Amy Coates Madsen

Amy Coates Madsen is 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-two 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. She has held positions at the Trenton lobbying firm of the Princeton Public Affairs Group, and the Public Policy Liaison Unit at the world headquarters of Catholic Relief Services. Amy received her Master of Arts in Policy Studies degree from the Johns Hopkins University – Institute for Policy Studies in Baltimore, Maryland; and her Bachelors degree from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia. Amy is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Amy serves on the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities (ACT). Amy is a former member of the Disaster Action Team of the Central Maryland Chapter of the American Red Cross and is qualified to provide disaster preparedness training to children and adults. She has also served as the former President of Central Maryland CAN TOO and was a member of the Board of Trustees of the largest United Methodist Church in Baltimore City. She serves on the board of her children’s preschool PTA and is a volunteer with the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland. Amy is currently leading an effort to establish an endowment for the Virginia Tech University Honors Program.