News & Updates

 

Wise Giving Wednesday: Scanning a Charity’s Website

Jun 5, 2019

When a donor reviews a charity’s website, what should they seek to find? What elements are important to examine? We often hear that a charity’s website is the most likely place a potential contributor goes to find out more about a charity. While that makes sense given that virtually all charities have an online presence, a website can sometimes be a bit overwhelming given the number of potential pages and choices once you land on the homepage. In this spirit, we offer some basic advice and reference how they relate to the BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.

Website Transparency: Basic facts about a charity’s programs, finances and governance should be easily accessible. That’s why BBB Charity Standard 17 calls for charity websites that solicit for contributions (and almost all of them welcome gifts) to include the same type of information that you would find in an annual report. Specifically, (a) a statement about the charity’s mission, (b) a summary of the charity’s activities in the past year, (b) a board roster with officers specified, (c) a financial information covering the past years’ total income, program expenses, fundraising expenses, administrative expenses and ending net assets. In addition, the website should provide electronic access to the latest IRS Form 990. Some organizations place all of this information in an item that is labeled as their annual report, others might provide an annual report page on the website that includes links to all of these elements.  The bottom line is that the donor should not have to search and find these basic facts, a transparent charity website should already do that for you by compiling these details in one accessible place.

Donor Privacy: These days donors are increasingly concerned about their privacy and want to know how their personal information is being used by the charity. BBB Charity Standard 18 calls for all charity websites to provide a clear and prominent policy on their website that includes the following fundamental elements: (a) What information is being collected about me and how will it be used, (b) how can I contact the charity to review this information and request corrections, (c) how do I inform the charity that I do not want this information shared with other organizations, and (d) what security measures are in place to protect this this personal information? While most charities already include such a policy on their websites, from time to time we find those where it is completely absent or is missing one or more of the above elements.

Cause-Related Marketing Disclosures: If a charity’s website includes an offer from a business that is selling consumer items with the announcement that the purchase will benefit the charity, BBB Charity Standard 19 calls for the promotion to include a specified disclosure. It should identify that actual or anticipation amount of the purchase price that will benefit the charity and, if applicable, the duration of the campaign and any maximum or guaranteed minimum contribution the charity will receive.

While a charity’s website will probably include much more than the above, BBB Wise Giving Alliance believes these disclosures will help provide a solid start in helping to encourage donor trust and confidence.


Video of the Week

As part of our Building Trust Video Series, we are pleased to provide a video featuring Sebastian Africano, Executive Director of Trees, Water & People (a BBB Accredited Charity) a conservation organization that works with Native American and Central American communities to install solar air furnaces, plant trees for reforestation, provide green job training and promote healthy diets.  


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 & CEO
BBB Wise Giving Alliance