Talking Back: Public Perception
HOW WOULD YOU define the public’s current perception of nonprofit organizations, and how do you think that perception will affect fundraising in the next fiscal year?
Public confidence in charitable organizations — which sank dramatically after the Sept. 11 attacks and Enron scandal — has been on a slow climb but continues to lag, according to recent studies. More than a third of respondents to a survey conducted late last year by the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Brookings Institution said they lacked confidence in the ability of charities to spend donations wisely and to deliver services. In light of recent events, FS asks fundraising professionals to weigh in.
Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE, president and CEO of nonprofit consultancy Capital Venture, Las Vegas: “Recent scandals in both the nonprofit and for-profit world have increased the skepticism of the public toward nonprofits and business. ... Experience shows that most nonprofits are still well respected and trusted. … In order to succeed in fundraising in the coming year, organizations will need to take several steps:
- collaborate whenever possible with other organizations to address the needs in their community and seek funding for these efforts in a unified approach;
- increase public trust by participating in programs that promote ethical standards and practices;
- increase the professionalism of their staff by providing education and training in management and fundraising; and
- recruit and involve key community leaders to serve on their boards of directors, and make responsibilities of governance and fundraising clear to board members.”
Howard Goldberg, president of direct marketing consultancy Pinnacle Direct, Toronto: “Notwithstanding some of the bad publicity that we as an industry have suffered, I still believe that we are held in high regard by the vast majority of the population. That regard is even higher among donors. I expect that there will be very little effect from any negativity.”
Steve Kehrli, vice president of list management, Names in the News, California, Oakland, Calif.: “I think public perception is currently favorable and will continue as such through the next year. As more time passes from the fundraising questions of 2002, I think the public is again trusting that their nonpartisan charitable donations are being used effectively in providing services and in caring for others. … “
Gail S. Meltzer, CFRE, president, Fund Raising Advantage, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.: “Accountability and stewardship have certainly become the name of the game. As a colleague said, the era of assumed virtue is over. I do believe, however, that nonprofits that have been creating and building close, meaningful relationships with donors over the years, and whose boards are properly exercising their fiduciary responsibilities, will continue to thrive. ... Recent scandals will no doubt mean that astute donors will be more careful to avoid the ineffective, poorly managed or unethical nonprofits, which, frankly, suits me just fine.