Pounds: Charity Guide means better businessWritten by Tom Pounds | President / Publisher | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a trustworthy organization that has recently published a very helpful guide for people looking into philanthropic giving and volunteering.
The BBB in Northwestern Ohio and Southeastern Michigan recently published its “2013 Charity Giving Guide,” which, as reported in this issue by Toledo Free Press Managing Editor Sarah Ottney, is a free 40-page report that includes most local charities as well as the most frequently requested national charities. The report also includes an overview of the BBB’s standards for charitable accountability, tips for giving and what to watch out for. A full list of charities and their ratings is available online at toledo.bbb.org.
What the local BBB is doing is innovative, said Dick Eppstein, president of BBB of Northwest Ohio and Southeast Michigan.
“We started four years ago to put letter grades on charities and when we started it we were the only BBB in North America to do so,” Eppstein told Ottney. “Consumers are always approached for money by charities and the BBB’s rating system nationally was very unclear. The rating system was either the charity does or does not meet standards. Well, consumers ask, ‘What does that mean?’ The national BBB went with letter grades for businesses. People understand that. So we decided to do the same for charities.
“To my knowledge, we are the only BBB in North America to put out a book like this,” Eppstein said. “Very few bureaus put out a book [of charities] at all and none do with letter grades, so no one’s seen anything like this.”
As we report, “A few other chapters have now started assigning letter grades to charities, but Eppstein is hoping the practice will expand.
“Eppstein’s only disappointment is some local charities did not respond to requests for information and were marked “Failure to Disclose.”
“Sadly, there are a number of local charities that simply do not respond,” Eppstein said. “We go to them, write them, phone them, ask, ‘Will you please tell us what you are doing with the money? Provide information so we can report on you.’ And they just do not respond and you will see that in the book.
“We’re not saying they are a bad charity. We’re saying we don’t know, because they won’t respond to us. Some of them don’t answer us because they know they don’t meet our standards. Some of them don’t respond because they are just too busy. We ask a lot of questions and they don’t want to take the time. They may be wonderful charities. I know some of them are.”
Those charities have the right to decline participation, and when looking at the BBB guide, potential donors have a right to consider that in their decision-making process.
Transparency and accessibility are key components to a good nonprofit, and the BBB guide helps codify those principles for all to see.
Thomas F. Pounds is president and publisher of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at email@example.com. Toledo Free Press is a sponsor of the Better Business Bureau’s “2013 Charity Giving Guide.”