News & Updates

 

Wise Giving Wednesday: Defining Charity Transparency

Oct 30, 2019

Twenty-five years ago, charity transparency was often viewed as the availability of charity financial information such as the IRS Form 990, the annual financial form filed by U.S. charities. (In Canada, charities complete Form T3010 with Canada Revenue Agency.) Back then, the Form 990 was not easily accessible on the internet, and one had to either request a copy from the charity itself or approach a government source (such as the IRS or one of the U.S. state government agencies that regulate charities.) Today, however, the IRS Form 990 is easily available on either the charity’s own website or by visiting the websites of GuideStar (now Candid), government agencies and other sources. 

In contrast, BBB Wise Giving Alliance has always viewed transparency as being much more than access to a financial statement. The 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability cover a variety of issues including governance, results reporting, appeal accuracy, donor privacy as well financial issues. Provisions of these standards call for charities to make other disclosures on its website and materials. This broad view is not a new approach to transparency but one that has been part of our charity reporting legacy for over a century.

It is difficult to know with certainty how charity transparency will evolve in the future. But if current internet trends continue, it can be summed up in five words: more information in real time. Donors are likely to expect access to more charity information to be made quickly available and at their fingertips. This expectation has been influenced by a number of developments such as crowdfunding sites that display a changed tote board number with each additional donation made and news about natural disasters and tragedies being available in seconds rather than hours.

Our best advice to donors is that no matter what trends emerge, remember the importance of verifying charity trustworthiness before a contribution is made. This additional step, such as visiting Give.org to access BBB Charity Reports, will help you avoid disappointment and encourage your generosity.


Video of the Week

As part of our Building Trust Video Series, we are pleased to provide a video featuring an interview with Andrea J. O’Neill, Executive Director, Lupus Research Alliance (a BBB Accredited Charity) which seeks to find better treatments and support medical research to ultimately prevent and cure systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE or lupus), a debilitating autoimmune disease.


Recent Reports

We are always working with charities to publish or update reports for donors. Visit Give.org or local BBBs to check out any charity before giving. Our recently evaluated charities include:

Finally, remember to let us know by going to www.give.org/charity-inquiry if you are  interested in seeing a report on a charity not on the list and we will do our best to produce one.

H. Art Taylor, President and CEO
BBB Wise Giving Alliance