How Nonprofit Transparency Works for You



Donating money to an organization is easy, but when you see yourself as an investor in creating good for the people, places, or animals you care about, giving can become even more meaningful.

As a philanthropic leader, I’m often asked by donors around the community how we determine whether or not a nonprofit or one of its programs is a good investment. The solution is simple: be proactive, do research, open up a dialogue and ask questions. Be vigilant on asking how a nonprofit knows their programs are effective and what they can provide as their evidence of success.  

One way this process has been streamlined is thanks to GuideStar, an online tool that collects and shares crucial information about nonprofit organizations. Last month, Dan Pallotta, a renowned entrepreneur, author and humanitarian activist, wrote an article about the importance of a tool like this. In the article, Dan writes:

"Imagine if your car's dashboard had only one big fat gauge, and all it revealed were your fuel costs per mile. Not speed, engine temperature or remaining fuel. Certainly not GPS with route and time to your destination. This is what the state of information has been like for donors giving to nonprofit organizations. The big fat solitary gauge has been cost—the average percent of a donation that goes to charitable programs. No gauge about what good the donation has done, or whether there is any correlation between cost efficiency (which is easily—and often—gamed) and progress or reduction of suffering."

GuideStar seeks to address this problem by allowing nonprofits to provide additional context for the impact of their work and the strength of their organizations and share this information with donors. The Community Foundation of Sarasota County is proud to partner with GuideStar to bring this tool at a local level — The Giving Partner — which now has information on more than 600 of our local nonprofits.

We truly believe that giving nonprofits the opportunity to demonstrate their transparency benefits both donors and the organizations themselves. Transparency works for everyone - with increased knowledge in our community about the many factors that indicate success, organizations have the opportunity to demonstrate impact beyond a single metric. This makes for more informed donors, and organizations that are thinking of all of the different ways they can strengthen their work. 

The bottom line is that benefits of transparency go way beyond having more information. A more informed public drives more philanthropy, and the consolidation of giving to the organizations that are making the most impact in our communities. That is how real change is made.

As you consider being the one to make a difference through your time, talent, or treasure, I hope you consider using The Giving Partner as your resource in making an informed investment. Whether you’re shopping for a car, finding a new restaurant to try, or picking your next vacation destination, doing your research is a given practice. Why should it be any different with your philanthropy?

Roxie Jerde is president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County.

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