A Question of Accountability

This article first appeared in Volunteer Victoria’s E-Link newsletter on July 29th , 2011. Sign up for E-Link and keep current with news and information from Volunteer Victoria.

A Question of Accountability

The national media recently turned its attention to charitable spending and highlighted the outcomes of a grading system that measures how Canadian charities of various shapes and sizes use donated funds. The report provides a valuable service, benchmark comparisons, and some important answers and also raised many questions, identified gaps in evaluation methodologies and stakeholder communications, and potentially planted seeds of doubt for donors and stakeholders that extend beyond the 100 organizations involved in the grading exercise and the realm of fundraising.

Some stakeholders are now looking to the non-profit community to bolster confidence and demonstrate that we are fully invested in accountability and oversight in all areas of our operations – from fund and friend-raising to governance and volunteer and staff management and everything in between. So where do we find a useful frame of reference that could address potential concerns of stakeholders?

The Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance created ‘Standards for Charitable Accountability’ to assist donors in making sound giving decisions and to encourage fair and honest solicitation practices, to promote ethical conduct by charitable organizations, and to advance support of philanthropy.

The 20+ standards help stakeholders explore themes related to measuring effectiveness, finances, fundraising and informational material, and how an organization answers questions about itself and its practices. By working through the standards, an organization should be able to help stakeholders gain a clearer understanding of how an organization:

· is governed
· spends its money
· applies truthfulness in their representations, and
· discloses basic information to the public

To learn more visit http://www.bbb.org/us/Charity-Standards/

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