Practice the transparency you preach

“Transparency” is an overused buzzword in the charitable world, with nonprofits and foundations talking a lot about the need to be open and accountable.

Yet far too many charities do far too little to show who they are, what they do or how they work.

Instead of making it easy for people to learn about their programs and finances, many charities fog their websites and marketing materials with hype about how great they are, but offer few details about who they serve, the need they address, the difference they make, and the challenges they face as organizations.

And instead of offering insight into who serves on their board and staff, including details about their jobs and professional background, and making it easy to connect with them, charities offer fluff.

Their websites may list their board members but provide little if any information about their work and employers, or how to reach them.

The biographies they provide for their staff may list their job titles and personal information about their families, pets and hobbies, but say little about their professional background or the role they actually play at the charity.

And while charities often provide an organizational history on their websites and in their marketing materials, those histories often can be big on overstatement and short on specifics.

Charities also seem reluctant to disclose even the suggestion that they may have faced problems or even failures, or to explain what they did to address those challenges.

The donors, volunteers and other partners that a charity counts on for support want to know as much as they can about charities they may want to support and get involved with for the long-term.

So instead of hype and generalities, use your website and marketing materials to provide the facts, figures and context that will make your charity truly open and accessible to the people you need to deepen your impact and help sustain the important work you do.

Want professional 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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