As they say, the proof is in the pudding — or rather, the transparency. Nonprofits owe their donors and board members a high degree of transparency — that means, openness and information about how the nonprofit operates.
Some of that transparency is required. For example, nonprofits must make their last few federal information (990) returns, and applications for tax-exempt status, public. You should post all of that material on your website, if you are not already doing so.
However, that’s just the bare minimum. There are a lot more ways your nonprofit can be much more transparent with donors, board members, employees, and volunteers. Transparency creates trust, and trust creates more goodwill toward the ultimate goal of generating funding that supports your cause. The nonprofit world has been negatively affected by publicized cases of misspending and even embezzlement by executives and other staff members; there is some skepticism and reluctance to trust out there. When it comes to your nonprofit, it’s time to put those concerns to rest for your donors, staff, and volunteers.
Here are just a few transparency tips:
How do you spend the money?
This is the most important transparency item. People who donate to nonprofits want to know where their money is going. Even more importantly, potential donors want assurance that their hard-earned money will be spent wisely before they make that choice..
That’s where your website and social media accounts come in. Create an infographic (Venngage is a great place to do this for close to no cost) or a pie chart that shows where the money goes from the moment it’s donated. Tell success stories that show that money has been well-spent. Publish your audited financials. Start a blog and regularly update it with news on how money is being spent. Be as specific about how the money is spent as possible.
List your employees and board members on your site.
People want to know that there are real people behind the veil at the nonprofits they are, or might be, giving to. It pays to personalize your nonprofit — show and celebrate your people and their good works. Run bios of them, and be sure to list your board of directors, if you have one, too. These people can help you attract major donations, and their networks will be happy to see them listed.
Publish an annual report.
Even though you’re not a for-profit business or corporation, you must think of your donors and the public at large as your “shareholders.” Create a publication that lays out everything you do, provides financial results and information, and otherwise legitimizes your nonprofit. This can really make you stand out, especially to larger donors and corporations who really want to see behind the curtain before they engage your nonprofit.
There are many more ways to make your nonprofit more transparent. Ask us about them!
Joe Paone is a content strategist at DonorLynk who loves informing nonprofits.