Running a nonprofit can be tough. Recruiting donors, stretching resources, and juggling lots of responsibilities are hard enough, but small organizations have one more thing to worry about. Careful donors want to give to vetted charities, and that presents a unique challenge to small nonprofits who aren’t big enough to attract the attention of online resources like Charity Navigator and GuideStar. Those influential authorities in the fundraising industry often don’t review smaller organizations, and that can deter potential donors. What’s a nonprofit to do?
If your nonprofit can’t be vetted by online resources, it’s up to you to build transparency and accountability that will reassure donors of your organization’s legitimacy. Donors are increasingly wary of nonprofits who aren’t responsible with their money, so it’s your job to let them know that you’re a credible organization. Here are some ways you can establish credibility with your donors:
1. Show People What You Do
Your donors want to know who you’re helping and how you help them — show them! Include stories from real people (or animals, or parks, etc.) that benefit from your work. Donors want facts! Including first-hand accounts about your organization and how you fulfill your mission will reassure donors that you’re using their money to make a difference.
Another good option is to offer tours of your facilities through your website. Letting your donors know that they can schedule a time to see your organization in action is a great way to build transparency even if they never make an appointment. You can also consider adding videos showcasing your facility, staff, and the work you do.
2. Build Financial Transparency
Good storytelling isn’t enough to build transparency; financial accountability is key. If your organization sends an annual report to donors, make that report publicly available to prospective donors. Your annual report should already include an account of what your charity accomplished in the last year, and it should always include a breakdown of what money you took in and what you did with that money. Making that kind of information easily available on your website establishes a sense of legitimacy that will go a long way toward reassuring donors that your charity spends their money wisely.
You can even go above and beyond by linking to your organization’s 990 or giving donors instructions for how to find it. That form is publicly available, but linking to it on your website shows donors that you have nothing to hide.
3. Include Testimonials
Providing testimonials from loyal, enthusiastic supporters can help reassure hesitant donors. You’re stepping aside, handing over the microphone, and letting someone else talk about your mission and how you accomplish it… and that’s huge!
4. Have References Available
You probably don’t want to post references’ contact information on your website, but having a few long-time donors who are willing to talk to others about their experiences is a good thing. If a donor contacts you about making a large or recurring donation, they may want to talk to someone about their experiences with your organization. Don’t get caught unprepared; have a few people who are willing to serve as ambassadors for your charity!