Wise Giving Wednesday: Building Trust Part 10
Charities both large and small have many things in common but one of the more important similarities is the presence of a charity’s website. For many donors and potential donors, this may be the first opportunity to see the organization describe what they do and provide fundamental facts to help visitors understand the organization’s mission, perspective and skills. Over the years websites have become the leading outreach vehicle for charities and are updated on a continuing basis to help maintain visitor interest and implement the latest design trends. And, most charity websites today either ask for donations or provide a link that enables visitors to make a gift with their credit card.
In terms of the BBB Charity Standards (Standard 17), we seek to verify that a charity’s website includes certain basic facts so that donors will be able to access fundamental information to help them make informed decisions. Oddly, one of the recommended information items that is sometimes hard to find is the charity’s address. In our view this omission is more inadvertent than intentional. Charity websites often enable visitors to send an email or other online communication that enables people to instantly send a message to the charity. But an address is important as it may help visitors identify the location of the organization. Donors may prefer to donate to charities close to their own communities. In turn, a charity website may even represent an organization that is located outside the United States. Unless identified, you really cannot assume where the organization resides.
Due its Internet availability on GuideStar.org and some state government agencies, the IRS Form 990, the annual financial form charities file with the IRS, has become a popular source of charity financial information. In view of this, Standard 17 calls for charities to provide a link to the IRS Form 990. Or, at a minimum, a properly labeled link to the page on the GuideStar site that provides access to the latest 990 it has filed.
Finally, Standard 17 calls for the charity’s website to include the same information recommended in annual reports (Standard 16). This charity does not need to produce a formal published annual report. Rather this part of the standard can be satisfied by having a page of the charity’s website that includes certain facts or links to pages that include this information:
- Charity’s mission
- Summary of accomplishments in the past year
- Board roster
- Financial information that provides total income in the past year, an expense breakdown (i.e., in the same program, administrative, and fundraising categories appearing in the financial statements) and ending net assets. Some charities provide their full audited financial statements, which provides mush mote than this requirement. But, at a minimum, we hope to see the specified information.
Websites have become a communication staple for charitable organizations. That is all the more reason that charities should keep in mind what facts they should be sure to include to help contributors, encourage trust and maintain good accountability practices.
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:
Finally, remember to let us know by going to https://give.org/ask-us-about-a-charity1/ if you are interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.
H. Art Taylor, President & CEO
BBB Wise Giving Alliance