2011 BBB Wise Giving Alliance Annual Report

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Our mission: Helping donors give with confidence by evaluating charities against 20 rigorous accountability standards and strengthening trust in the charitable sector.

In support of this mission, we

  • produce in-depth charity evaluation reports based on comprehensive Standards for Charity Accountability,
  • promote a seal that signals charity commitment to ethical practices,
  • advise donors on responding wisely to charity appeals and
  • speak out on accountability at meetings of charities and others in the sector.

Helping donors online

Our website, www.give.org, drew a cumulative 3 million-plus views in 2011, up by almost 600,000 from 2010. Each of the 1,300 reports listed on the site concludes that a charity

  • meets all 20 Alliance Standards for Charity Accountability, or
  • does not meet one or more Alliance standards, and why, or
  • has not responded to the Alliance’s requests for information, or has declined to be evaluated against the Alliance standards.
  • Helping donors through the BBB charity seal

At the end of 2011, 489 charities were accredited (i.e., met all 20 of the BBB Standards for Charity Accountability). There is no charge to charities for accreditation and the public has free access to the resulting reports on the Alliance’s website. All charities that meet the BBB charity standards can, if they wish, obtain the right to use the national charity seal, by signing a license agreement and paying a sliding-scale fee. For donors, the seal is a quick and easy way to identify a charity that meets the Alliance’s standards. Since its beginning the seal has appeared in well over a billion charity direct mail appeals. Seal holder organizations were listed in two full-page ads in USA Today in 2011.

Charity seal participants are routinely evaluated like any other charity, and can continue in the seal program only as long as they meet standards. Since 2003, 11% of charity seal holders lost the right to use the seal either because they no longer met standards or they did not provide requested updated information.

Helping donors through impact reports

2011 saw the launching, after two years in development, of Charting Impact, a project that gives charities a common format they can use to report to the public on how effectively they are meeting their missions. This project was developed in collaboration with Independent Sector, a collection of charities, foundations and corporate giving programs, and GuideStar USA, an organization that provides online access to the IRS Form 990 and other charity information. The Alliance’s own Charting Impact report and many others are accessible at www.ChartingImpact.org.

Helping donors through the Wise Giving Guide

The Alliance’s magazine, published three times a year, summarizes the Alliance’s evaluations and explores issues that affect donors. The first 2011 Guide discussed why the Alliance measures charities against comprehensive accountability standards rather than rating them against one another. The Summer issue introduced Charting Impact and suggested points readers might consider in reading charities’ own impact reports; and the final 2011 issue looked at how Facebook, Twitter and mobile text giving, among other technologies, have brought new opportunities, and questions, to both charities and social media.

Helping donors by advancing mobile giving

Recognizing the growing popularity of mobile giving and the need to assure “text-to-give” donors that their dollars are safely transmitted to trustworthy charities, the Alliance in 2011 began exploring with the Mobile Giving Foundation, which had similar concerns, how the two organizations might join forces. The result was the formation in early 2012 of a co-branded effort, the BBB Mobile Giving Foundation. In 2012, the Alliance will work closely with MGF to initiate a process to verify that their charity clients meet the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability.

Helping donors through local Better Business Bureaus that evaluate local charities

To further the availability of information about charities available to charitable donors in their communities, the Alliance, as needed, lends its experience to train new charity analysts and assist local BBBs who seek counsel in applying the 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. About half of the BBBs nationwide have charity review programs and cumulatively produce about 10,000 reports on local charities.

Speaking out on accountability

Alliance staff members participated in numerous forums and conferences in 2011. H. Art Taylor, Alliance president and CEO, spoke at annual conferences of the National Association of State Charity Officials, Independent Sector, National Health Council and other charity-related events. Bennett Weiner, Alliance COO, is a member of the Not-for-Profit Advisory Committee of the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which is seeking to strengthen financial reporting standards for organizations.