1,500,050 Charities Making a Difference — A Statistic Donors Need To See

October 21, 2013 - by Tiffany Neill

With just a month to go before the season of giving really takes off, now is the moment to educate the American public about the value of contributing to nonprofit organizations. We face an uphill battle because we’ve let the conversation get away from us this year.

The biggest story in the media about nonprofit contributions wasn’t about how these gifts were used to feed people when federal funding was cut by sequestration … or how they provided housing for families displaced by Hurricane Sandy … or how nonprofits used them to keep the air clean, children educated, or the elderly safe.

These were the important stories, but the biggest story singled out the fundraising practices of a mere 50 charities and then labeled those groups the “worst.” And, for the most part, we stayed silent. Were we silent because we know there are a few bad apples out there – a few charities that do not use contributions to further their missions? Were we silent because we didn’t want to wade into the complicated discussions about cost of fundraising?

Whatever the reasons, it’s time to speak up. We need to change the focus from the 50 to the 1,500,050. That’s right, there are almost 1.6 million nonprofits registered with the IRS, and we need to focus on the incredible things they accomplish every day. And, we need to talk more openly about how we self-regulate and periodically throw away the rotten apples.

So, how do we do this?

  • Talk about the victories. Make a pledge that once a week you’ll use your social media platforms to brag about raising money for nonprofits. Talk about how many lives are impacted by your own nonprofit or the groups to which you contribute. Heck, if you have some extra time, write an opinion piece or see if you can drum up some media press interest in your nonprofit.
  • Stop talking about fundraising ratios. It’s amazing how we let these creep into what we do. We all know that spending more money on fundraising is often a good investment for an organization, so why do we publish charts that show these ratios? Why do we promote the watchdog groups? For a few months, let’s stop that. Let’s instead publish information on how the investment in fundraising has led to 50% more meals being served, or how the 20% increase in fundraising costs has led to a 200% increase in program delivery.
  • Be our own police. As members of ADRFCO, AFP, and DMA, we believe strongly in ethical fundraising practices. Instead of being silent when a bad apple is discovered, or being afraid to even ask questions, embrace the process. Welcome the chance to investigate “is there something wrong here?” — and by all means speak out!
  • Make the donors proud. As important as it is to talk to the American public, it’s more important to make sure our donors know that they are investing in quality groups. We’re nearing the end of 2013. This is a great time to tell your donors how you advanced your mission this year with their help. Say “thank you” — don’t just ask for more money.
  • Make sure donors can tell a good apple from a bad. Talking about nonprofit governance can put even the most dedicated professional to sleep — but it’s important to have an elevator speech on how the organization has such things as: an independent Board of Governors, fiscal safeguards, a commitment to effective programs, and ethical fundraising practices.
  • Give. The essence of fundraising is encouraging people to support the efforts that you care about. To be able to ask for gifts with integrity, every fundraiser should also be a donor. Show your commitment to the causes you care about by giving.

It’s time to stop fixating on a few potentially bad apples. We need to be proud of the ethical, effective organizations that are changing the world. We may not be able to change the discussion in two months, but we can start.


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