2010 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.

Our work:
  • producing in-depth charity evaluation reports based on comprehensive Standards     for Charity Accountability  
  • promoting  a seal that signals charity commitment to ethical practices
  • speaking out on accountability at meetings of charities and others in the sector, and
  • advising donors on responding wisely to charity appeals. 

Our key activities in 2010:

Help for donors online and in the press:  In 2010, the public viewed the Alliance’s 1,300 national charity reports more than 2 million times on the www.give.org website.  Each report concludes that a charity
  • meets all 20 BBB Standards for Charity Accountability, or
  • does not meet one or more BBB charity standards, and why, or
  • has not responded to the Alliance’s requests for information, or has declined to be evaluated against the BBB charity standards. 

In a July 2010 press release, the Alliance reported that in its evaluations of charities that had provided requested information during the past two years, more than 54 percent met all standards and the remaining 44 percent did not meet one or more of the standards.   Insufficient transparency, inadequate board activity and the failure to assess charity effectiveness account for the most failures in compliance. As BBB Wise Giving Alliance president Art Taylor noted, “Disclosure, effective governance and accountability are important indicators of a charity’s commitment to donors and the causes they serve.”

Charity evaluation remained the core of the Alliance program in 2010, but the need to reach donors throughout the country became especially pressing when dire and unexpected events aroused Americans’ generosity.  Within 24 hours of the January earthquake in Haiti, the Alliance issued a press release with tips for vetting Haiti charity appeals. The release attracted wide media attention.  To help contributors keep abreast of charity efforts in the following months, the Alliance asked groups involved in Haiti to describe their work and then added their responses to each one’s Alliance report online. When the Haitian disaster spurred donors’ use of their cellphones to contribute by text message, the Alliance issued facts and cautions to increase understanding of this relatively new giving tool.  And when disaster struck in the Gulf of Mexico, the Alliance provided information about giving and volunteering in response to the oil spill.
Help for donors through the BBB charity seal: The Alliance’s national charity seal program grew to 314 in 2010, as 35 additional national charities chose to participate.  Charities that the Alliance has found to meet all 20 Standards for Accountability have the option of signing a license and paying a fee for the use of a BBB Accredited Charity Seal that can be displayed on their website and fund raising materials. 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.  The Alliance helped bring attention to the BBB charity seal program through full-page ads in two issues of USA Today in 2010.

Charity seal participants are regularly evaluated like any other charity and are dismissed from the seal program if found to be no longer in compliance with BBB Charity Standards.  Most charities that become seal holders stay with the program; non-compliance with standards is the primary reason for leaving it.

Help for donors through the Wise Giving Guide: The Alliance’s publication, in magazine format, summarizes the Alliance’s evaluations and includes articles on the why’s and how’s of charity practices that affect donors.  The first 2010 Guide featured a “donor’s handbook” that summarizes tips for handling a variety of charity appeals and giving opportunities, from phone and mail to texting and car donations.  Later issues in 2010 reported on charities’ work in Haiti and examined the roles of celebrities in charity. 

You can learn about volunteer vacations, charitable bequests, volunteering and other giving-related subjects in past issues of the Guide.  A brief description of each Guide article’s contents is at www.give.org

Help for donors through impact reports: In 2010 the Alliance continued work to develop a format that charities could use to report to the public on their effectiveness in meeting their missions. The project was conducted in collaboration with Independent Sector and GuideStar USA.  It was funded by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.  By the end of 2010 a draft framework of questions was being tested with a number of charities and other nonprofit organizations, with the results evaluated by an outside party.   The final product was introduced in the spring of 2011.

You can see the Alliance’s own Charting Impact report, and many others, at www.ChartingImpact.org.    Suggested points to consider as you read these reports are included in the Summer 2011 issue of the Guide at www.give.org.

Help for 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 staff who seek counsel in applying the 20 Standards for Charity Accountability or completing charity reports.