Sleepless in 2013?
MP: I couldn’t agree more with transparency. I’ve been working with an organization that works with homeless veterans, and it’s been scary to see the dogged determination CNN reporters are having in getting 990s and then doing the math on the 990s without any narrative storytelling. So what you get is snapshot of fundraising expenses that may seem unethical and inappropriate, but they may be part of a bigger picture.
The analogy I like to use is that when a python eats a pig, it expands and it looks a lot like a pig for a while until it digests it. So I call it the pig in the python. Sometimes your fundraising expenses might be the pig in the python. You’re still the python; you just took on a bigger chunk to then be able to do more in the future.
One of the transparency things that I think is really important is that every nonprofit should put their 990s on their website, in the About Us section. Very few people are probably going to look at it, but it’s public data anyway, so it’s not serving you to not have it accessible from your website. And then the other thing is having the key people that will talk to the media and maybe other people, too, ready to tell the narrative: OK, these are the numbers; why are they this way? Why did we just spend $80 million in direct-mail fundraising? Is it because you make really weird decisions on your fundraising goals, or is it because you’re doing something strategically over the next three years?
None of the organizations that have been the big exposés on TV have compellingly told that story. Of course, we’re at the whim of media editors also. They may be cutting those good talking points out.