Transparency is the antidote


by George Rattin, Associate Vice President, HUB Philanthropic Solutions

I live in the state of Illinois.  Over the last few years, news of leaders involved in scandal has rocked the confidence of Illinoisans in their leaders.  Though these scandals were not not non-profit based, the leadership of local non-profits must bear this erosion of public confidence.  What is a nonprofit to do to distinguish itself as an organization that can be trusted?  Non-profits, as a whole, must step up their game when it comes to how they conduct “the business” of their mission and how they communicate that to the public.  Non-profit organizations must work to become transparent in their operation.  The public must be able to see that non-profits do have impact and see very specifically how and how efficiently they deliver services.  Movement to a transparent operation does not happen overnight.  As with most cultural changes, a change to a fully transparent organization will take time.  However, here are some tips on where you might want to start:

  1. Know your cost of fundraising and your ROI.  Too often organizations do things because they are tradition regardless of their efficacy.  If you begin to track and monitor your fundraising costs and ROI, not only will you become more effective, but you will be able to communicate to your donor base very clearly how much of their investment impacts your mission.
  2. Do the right thing, even when it is hard.  Sometimes though difficult, we know we need to retire events or practices because they do not truly advance our missions.  These things/events may be popular, but do the right thing for the organization’s mission.
  3. Communicate in clear and concise ways.  Take a page from businesses with public shareholders–give your investors the kind of information you would want if you were in their shoes.  Summary financial data, dashboard statistics, etc. Provide the information important to the donor, and show them clearly that you are worthy of their trust and further investment.

How do you overcome larger issues of trust in society?  Distinguish your organization as effective, efficient and impactful and communicate in a clear and transparent way.  Your organization will benefit from this in the short-term and be prepared for further demands in the future.


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