One of the biggest issues with fundraising today – and the one that causes the most problems and the greatest controversy – is that of transparency. If you’re new to the non-profit world, transparency is the degree to which your supporters can see what you’re doing and where your donations are going. For instance, how much in donations did you bring in last year? How much of that actually went to meet your non-profit’s goal, and how much went to administrative and other costs? The idea of transparency is very important to donors right now, and can make or break your organization.
A word commonly used alongside transparency is accountability. This is the idea that, by taking your supporters donations, you become (at least to a degree) accountable to them for how you are using their money. This is certainly true if you want legacy or repeat donors. Make sure you are transparent, you are accountable, and your donors will love and respect you for it.
The first thing that’s required, of course, is making sure your money is only handled by trusted staff members, and good records are always kept. We’ve all had instances where we got a little extra money in our personal lives, got excited because we had so many things we needed to spend it on – and afterwards, weren’t quite sure where it all went. This can happen to non-profits, too! You get a donation windfall, and are excited because you can afford to stock the pantry before walk-in day. The next thing you know, the extra money is gone and the pantry is looking better, but where did it all go, specifically?
You may be wondering how you can use this information, and what good it will do when it comes to your supporters. The answer is A LOT of good, as it can easily turn one time impulse donors into life long supporters. The key is figuring out and then supplying the results that your organization is seeing. Imagine being able to say the following:
“Last year, our organization received more than $20,000 in donations from the community. More than 90% of that went toward our food pantry, which helped to feed more than 1,000 local families in need.”
Those types of statistics, any type of statistics, not only tell people what you’re doing – they show people that you care enough to be transparent and accountable. That makes supporters feel confident and good about supporting you, no matter what your goals are. They know they’re not simply throwing their money away, but putting it into your care to be put to a good use. Transparency is a great way to increase your agency’s legitimacy while boosting funds and supporter loyalty.