You Don't Have to Be Big to be Accountable
If people are seeking unbiased, transparent data from a third-party source about the largest and most visible charities, it seems logical that donors to small charities likely crave it even more. Even if you’re too small for Charity Navigator to rate, you can give people useful, verifiable information. Don’t just display tragic photographs and list lofty goals. Tell people how you spend your money, how efficient you are, how well you’re growing, and how much your CEO makes. Make this information easy to find. Today’s charitable givers, especially those who give online, want data. Give it to them.
The organizations that did well in the days after the tsunami had proven track-records they could promote. They could tell their donors where they had done this kind of work before, how successful they had been, and why they were a good choice of donor funds in this crisis. Donors want to know if you’ve succeeded before. Tell them about it. Let people know the size of your impact, whether it be the number of meals served, acres preserved or animals adopted. Evaluate your success against quantifiable program goals.
Stick with what you do best.
Following the tsunami, I was impressed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, which recognized that even though it was large and well-known, it was not in a good position to aid tsunami victims. So it referred people to other charities, even though people who gave to tsunami relief might not have money later in the year to support the NRDC’s own activities.
NRDC should be commended for this. Although there was easy money to be had, it did not succumb to the temptation. In the future, not only will donors be likely to reward NRDC for its honesty, other organizations will be likely to refer donors to NRDC when a donor’s wish matches one of its programs. Unfortunately, not every organization was as true to its mission as NRDC. Sadly, there were many charities that were seemingly ill equipped to work in Indonesia trying to raise money for tsunami relief. This is foolish and greedy and will only serve to turn off donors in the long run.