The financial benefits of keeping your charity transparent

It's an unfortunate truth, but some nonprofits are nothing more than scams disguised as well-intentioned charities. They'll have a nice message and maybe even a website, but in reality they are facades designed to encourage false donations. For donors, it's important that the charities they choose to give to are legitimate and that the organization can prove it. And nowhere is that fact illustrated better than in a recent study from City University of New York's Baruch College School of Public Affairs.

Authored by Greg Chen, Ph.D., a Baruch College professor, the study explores the benefits of adhering to the charity accountability standards set forth by the Better Business Bureau. Compliance for an organization means meeting a number of requirements that run the gamut of charitable giving, from how to assemble your board of directors to providing annual public reports.

"Although not focused on the worthiness of a charity's programs or mission in terms of outcomes and impacts, the BBB standards do reflect an understanding of the governance and management practices that lead to accountable and successful performance," Chen wrote in the study.

Referencing information collected from charitable foundations operating in New York, as well as nationwide, the study revealed that donors were more likely to give by 13.5 percent and 8 percent, respectively. It's not wholly conclusive, but the numbers suggest BBB accountability standards compliance is a boon to contributions. At the very least, fully meeting the bureau's transparency criteria will qualify your organization to be featured as one of the BBB Accredited Charities and allow you to brandish promotional material with the BBB Accredited Charity Seal.

Apart from the BBB's suggestions, here are a couple of other ways to keep your nonprofit transparent:

It's easy to include a lot of emotionally driven content in marketing materials and on your organization's website, but staying away from any overly subjective and/or exaggerated language can help you establish yourself as a serious authority in your field. Especially be sure to keep such language out of content meant to be informative or strictly for education. Charities should enthusiastically embrace their message and mission, but only so long as it doesn't come off as an ill-motivated vendetta. 

Keeping your numbers transparent is a good way to inspire trust, but without proof-of-action, it's hard to justify contributions. Use multiple channels to publicize your nonprofit's charitable acts, including social media, email, promotional mailers and more.

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