Last week, the Federal Trade Commission revealed the results into their investigation of three bogus cancer “charities,” apparently run by a single family, that were stealing donors’ money.
As professional fundraisers, we all know that the actions of thieves like this family, coupled with the media attention any scandal attracts, makes it more difficult for legitimate charities to raise money.
As the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) said in reaction to last week’s news:
“These kinds are fraudulent organizations are not charities in any sense of the word, nor do they in any way represent the vast majority of charities that work tirelessly on a wide variety of causes.
“Almost every charity that a donor encounters will be legitimate, and follow fundraising guidelines such as those in AFP’s Code of Ethical Principles and Standards….
“A few simple steps—such as avoiding aggressive tactics; checking with the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Guidestar or similar group; researching an organization online; and even volunteering for a charity before you give—are great ways to ensure your donations and your generosity are given to deserving groups.”
–Andrew Watt, FInstF, President and CEO, Association of Fundraising Professionals
Making Lemons into Lemonade
What if we turn charity scandals into great opportunities for us to generate discussion, engage donors, and strengthen our profession?
Of course, we need to denounce fraudulent nonprofits when they’re discovered.
At the same time, though, these scandals are our chance to step forward to educate donors about how to find legitimate organizations to invest in. Nonprofits like the ones we work for — groups that really are doing the hard work of changing and saving lives.
This latest charity-related scandal won’t be the last. There will always be “bad apples,” who will take advantage of others.
4 Steps to Maintain Public Trust in Your Nonprofit
Here are four steps that we can take, as a profession, to maintain and enhance public trust, engage current and new donors, and generate even more donations moving forward.
1) Communicate with your donors
Don’t hide from the scandal or be silent! Instead, remind your donors about the great work you’re doing. Make sure they know just how different your nonprofit is from the unscrupulous people they’re reading about in the news.
2) Educate your donors
Take the opportunity provided by this event (and future scandals) to teach your donors how to evaluate nonprofits. You can also use this to your organization’s advantage, by pointing out what donors should look for.
3) Write an editorial — or two
You can use your editorial to bring the news back to the solid work your nonprofit does in your community. Or you can use it to educate your wider community about how to screen nonprofits.
4) Discuss the issue on social media
Use your social media channels to provide quick tips on evaluating nonprofits, emphasize your nonprofit’s work, and express sympathy for the people who are taken in by con artists posing as fundraisers.
Making it Harder for Charity Scammers
Never forget — our profession is vitally important to the communities we work in. We don’t have to let criminals taint the way that the wider public feels about what fundraisers do. Instead, let’s work together to get ahead of this story and the scandals of the future.
Ideally, our efforts today will make it harder for con artists to profit in the future. Our voices will leave our profession, and the charities we work for, in a stronger position. And by teaching our donors and the wider public how to screen nonprofits, we’ll help ensure that their gifts are making a difference.
How would you suggest nonprofits and donors rise up in light of this latest scandal? Share your thoughts in the comments.