Wise Giving Wednesday: Charity Websites 101
While we encourage potential donors to access charity reports on BBB’s Give.org to verify charity trustworthiness, the content of a charity’s website is also helpful. Among other things, the presence or absence of certain materials can send a signal about the charity’s transparency, and its interest in assisting donors in making an informed choice. With this in mind, here are some things to look for when visiting charity websites.
- Access to basic facts. A charity website should have basic facts about the charity’s mission, major programs, governance and finances in an accessible area of the website. This recommended content is covered in BBB Charity Standard 17 which calls for charity websites to include the same information you would typically find in an annual report, such as a description of the charities mission and activities in the past year, financial information, and a roster of the governing board. In addition, the website should provide access to the organization’s most recently filed IRS Form 990, the annual financial form filed with the Internal Revenue Service.
- Finding financial statements. As many donors seek out information on charity finances, most charity websites make it easy to locate those details. If on the other hand, a charity website requires a little bit of hunting to find financial statements, that might be signaling a potential concern. For example, one might be cautious if the website only provides a financial summary but not the latest IRS Form 990 or (if applicable) the complete audited financial statements. Keep in mind, we also urge donors to consider much more than finances when making a giving decision. In addition, if the charity organization is a house of worship or is an affiliated entity of a house of worship, it is not required to file an IRS Form 990.
- Provide feedback. Charities want to hear from donors and generally encourage feedback on their websites. Take that opportunity to let them know what additional information you would like to see and any recommendations on how the website can be improved. They will value and appreciate your input.
Video of the WeekAs part of our Building Trust Video Series, we are pleased to revisit a video interview featuring Saleem Zaru, Executive Director, United Palestinian Appeal (a BBB Accredited Charity) that works to assist impoverished Palestinians through its four program areas: community and economic development, education, health and wellness, and outreach. The organization states that it launches its own programs and builds long-term relationships with partners in Palestinian territories, the refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan, and the world at large.
Heart of Giving PodcastIn this week’s Heart of Giving Podcast, BBB WGA interviews Kimberly Bryant, the Founder of Black Girls CODE, a charity dedicated to “changing the face of technology” by introducing girls of color (ages 7-17) to the field of technology and computer science with a concentration on entrepreneurial concepts.
We are always working with charities to publish or update reports for donors. Visit Give.org or local BBBs to check out any charity before giving. Our recently evaluated charities include:
- Americans United for Separation of Church and State
- Marine Corps Association Foundation
- PetSmart Charities
Finally, remember to let us know by going to give.org/charity-inquiry if you are interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.