Transparency and Communication in Online Fundraising

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Facilitated by Todd Spitz, GiveLoop

Session Description

There seems to be increasing demand from donors for transparency & communication from the non-profits they are contributing to. Todd will explore participant's experience with this, and discuss what levels and what types of transparency people think are important, as well as what is going "too far" (transparency vs. Privacy). The session will also cover how to leverage technology so that transparency and communication don't come at the expense of massive overhead.

Session Notes

Communication and Transparency

Note-taker: John Kenyon

Initial framing from Moderator about topic

Transparency about where donations go, since transparency drives donations Communication after the donation - where it goes what happens to it

What people wanted to discuss

Disaster in Vietnam, wanting to show where donations go Having an transparent organization, let people see into the organization Being a horizontal org, transparency among ourselves What is valuable in transparency, what is noise? Networked nonprofit - exposing salaries, advancement criteria, etc.. Reporting about what my donation will produce Kickstarter model, next gen of micro funding, crowd funding, peer to peer financing Interests both of donors and those that get the donations How much info about the funders institutions etc should be given?


Make public acknowledgment the default with option to be anonymous

Worries about being too transparent, how do you approach that, how do you articulate the benefits and what are the risks of it? What is the norm, what is risky, what are good risks?

Are there standards - some like guidestar, 990, glass pockets - focus on foundations

Board minutes online, no such thing as an industry wide standard. In reality, people may be much more guarded if they know their discussion will be posted.

Comprehensive transparency - what we are spending, how we are doing what we do.

Showing specific use cases, showcase examples of who we helped, more easy to consume than comprehensive explanations

Nonprofits are often good at showcasing program work. But many are struggling with operating so they don't want to talk about operating, don't want to share how much goes toward operating. Can ask donors to request funds for operating expenses, so it is not just one or the other, can be a combination of both.

If you want to support this program, it needs $2000, part of that is operating expenses.

People want to give to the emotional thing, not to salaries. Most people who give can't afford to give, so to show salaries, might discourage people who make less than the ED for people who want to give to programs.

Showing case studies around solutions. Wanted to do a campaign to sponsor a person, here is what it will produce.

Has anyone done this, breaking down what things cost - overhead, shipping, etc

Mercy corps is an example, gives specifics but not a specific person.

What about what happens after, reporting to the donor after

Donating to donorchoose, fund a classroom, Packet from the classroom w/ photos, notes provides a picture of what your donation did.

What about sharing mistakes, your dark side? Unless you respond to criticism, that becomes the story, must respond to it.

None of us or our organizations are perfect, none of us are perfect, example of red cross responding to complaining blogger about unsatisfactory class, they responded and mitigated he damage.

We Invite people to come to the office so they see that we don't have fancy offices, we look like hippies, etc. Gives them a reality check.

Where we hit our limit on transparency, we punch our time to the second, but to show that to the client isn't useful, better to synthesize, aggregate time because some things really take longer than expected

People don't want to hear that it takes work to get the work done

Had the experience where we bill for hours worked, then haggle over what was this what was that, so instead we do a fixed bid - this amount for this period of time, so they are not second guessing us.

Its less about people finding out the dirty secret. More about knowing the framework of how you get your job done, vs what they think it should take, can take a lot of education to educate them about how things get done.

For donations, I don't need all the detail, but just some basics on what got done. But had the experience with donorschoose, where they talk about what they spend their money on, that 10% is for operations. But within the 90%, they talk about promotions etc, so you realize only 60% of your donation went to the classroom.

It is about reframing, sometimes we are the vehicle to find and support those orgs in need, even with the percentage to operations it is still more than they would have gotten

Should npos take the risk of telling them that 40% is going towards support? Who educates donors about why this is necessary?

Do you want donors that understand the systemic issues or ones at live in a fantasyland?

In general people prefer to not know about the specifics.

In for profit, not everyone thinks about how much of the price I am paying goes toward the product and how much toward production.

Limits of transparency, you can loose more by educating. We might like to be utopic and think more transparency is better, but that is not always true.

Standards, benchmarks, ideal, do they exist are other orgs trying to solve that?

The cost of educating people about what it takes to do the work, is it worth it?

Real lack of understanding about operating costs, 10% is ridiculous