CNN partnered with the Tampa Bay Times and the Center for Investigative Reporting to disseminate the results of a yearlong investigation of American charities’ shortcomings as organizations. It is clear from the findings that nonprofit transparency is an urgent issue. [You can check out their list of 50 worst charities in America here.]
The article, published last week, has garnered significant media attention for the poor scores many organizations received. In one case, an organization spent less than 1% of their total revenue on their mission. Less than 1%! This number, of course, is shameful and disturbing, not only for the needy but also for the donors who had entrusted the organization to do good. Greater nonprofit transparency would have led potential donors to make better more educated selections when putting up their cash.
This distinct lack of transparency is particularly damaging to organizations who are actually and effectively doing good work in their respective fields and allocating funds to their projects appropriately. The erosion of trust between organizations and the public because of revelations like those made by the Tampa Bay Times and the CIR highlight the importance of transparency in all of an organization’s activities.
Providing people with information that guarantees an organization is carrying out their mission, meeting their goals and truly making a difference for good reinforces an imperative trust between a cause and its supporters. Surely in a sector with increasing competition, well-known ambiguity and rampant mistrust, being a transparent, trustworthy organization is a huge advantage that allows organizations to reach their goals as a nonprofit or social enterprise and build a reciprocal community around a cause.
The majority of donated money, according to the report, is going towards paying third party for-profits which handle solicitations through call centers. Nearly $1 billion in the past 10 years have gone towards paying solicitors rather than towards actual charitable activity.
To me, this signals that a number of organizations are truly indifferent to their mission – so much so they funnel large amounts of money towards third party contractors and executive salaries – or they are simply ignorant of (or, to be more amicable, underestimating) the potential technology holds as a donation and volunteer solicitation tool.
Contracted call centers are typically extremely expensive and ineffective. After all, many call solicitations are not moving or particularly invoking and do not motivate people to convert to active supports of an organization. TV ads sometimes do this effectively, but they are very costly and only offer a limited time engagement with a potential supporter. Organizations must spend money consistency to keep up with their donation and volunteer quotas.
Software, on the other hand, is becoming increasingly easy to acquire, manage and maintain without large teams of IT professionals. Any computer literate and proficient individual can use a variety of tools available to increase an organization’s presence in the public eye. ImpactFlo, for example, offers organizations the ability to easily plot their projects and stories on a map and enables visitors to the map to donate and volunteer directly from the map.
Organizations would then optimize their social media strategy and, if necessary, run Facebook or Google Ad campaigns to direct traffic to their Impact Map. Interactive engagement through technologies that promote stories, statistics and overall impact turn passive donors into active supports of a cause.
This, of course, is just one example of implementing a simple technology to increase organizational transparency but others include keeping up with social media, sharing stories about the people you help or places you look after — in other words, maintaining a consistent, honest and forthcoming engagement with followers and the puplic as a whole.
Unfortunately some organizations are placing their business over the people they help, but through utilizing technology to increase transparency and truly engage supporters the charitable organizations the really matter and make a difference can come out ahead to make this world a tangibly better place.