Nonprofits have had to become more comfortable asking for money during the past two years. Reluctant fundraisers have had to face their fears and talk about the strengths of their organizations and their ability to respond to historic and emerging needs. Federal funds have flowed into local communities through intermediaries, and foundations and corporations have increased their giving as part of community and national responses. Fundraising takes time – think grant applications, proposals, and scheduling meetings with donors. This means that when funds are received the first move is to deploy them quickly. That’s what everyone wants: “let’s get the money to people who need it.” This is also expressed as: “let’s get those programs and services up and running.”
We agree with these priorities. We also believe it is important to take time to communicate what your organization is using its money for. This is one of the “accountability” components of being a nonprofit and securing philanthropic or government funds for your work. It takes time, but this is a step you cannot skip. Sooner or later people will start asking the question: where did the money go? You want to be proactive and out in front of those questions. If you think your answer might raise questions, then we ask you to question how you are using the dollars. Nonprofits are trusted organizations, and that trust needs to be sustained.
Here's how the Independent Sector discusses the trust that is vested in nonprofits. ‘Public trust is the currency of the nonprofit sector. The public’s belief that nonprofits will “do the right thing” is one of the central reasons the sector exists. Communities have relied upon nonprofits to provide trusted sources of information, life sustaining services, environmental stewardship, and places of refuge for centuries. In today’s highly polarized environment, understanding and managing trust has never been more important.” You can read their full 2021 report titled Trust in Civil Society: Understanding the factors driving trust in nonprofits and philanthropy, for more of their findings.
Here are a few simple ways you can build trust and clearly communicate what you are doing with the money you have received. Share information about the numbers of people you are serving. Share demographic information, such as how many are students, or seniors; which live in neighborhoods without access to transportation. Share what it cost you to distribute meals: the food may have come from a foodbank, but what were the other costs you incurred getting meals into people’s homes and more importantly their stomachs? If you are an advocacy organization, let people know what specifically you have been advocating for, and what the results have been, if any. Don’t obfuscate: be clear so there are no questions bubbling under the surface that may emerge at an inopportune time. You don’t want someone taking to the mic at your next event to ask, “what did you do with the money?” Be proactive in telling your story and help sustain the trust.
[Copyright 2022 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Video and phone conferencing services always available. Let us help you grow your fundraising. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.]