Transparency can help build trust

Nonprofits and foundations often talk about the need for transparency in the charitable world but can fall far short of it themselves.

Whether or not your charity claims to be transparent, you should make it easy for anyone — individual donors, institutional funders, other nonprofits, news reporters, the general public — to find basic information about your organization.

Your website should explain your mission, programs and basic financial data, along with links to the Form 990 tax return you file with the Internal Revenue Services.

It also should include the names, titles, phone numbers and email addresses of the members of your staff, as well as the names, outside affiliations and similar contact information for members of your board.

You also should consider posting short biographies and photos of your staff and board members. Visitors to you website, particularly prospective donors, grantees and other clients and partners, want to know who they are doing business with.

And when anyone contacts your organization, make sure you respond quickly. You do not want to lose a potential donor, funder, volunteer or partner, or leave a reporter thinking you are trying to hide something.

When you distribute a news release, be sure to include key details. If you are announcing you have been awarded a grant or gift, for example, don’t simply describe it as “generous,” but how much it is for and who is making it.

Making basic information about your organization easily accessible is an important step in building the trust you need to do your job and advance your mission.

Want help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or

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