Revised with new information as of August 22, 2011
Use Your Web Site to Show Your Accountability and
To Teach Others About the Nonprofit / NGO / Charity Sector!
The number and tone of media stories regarding mission-based organizations/civil society and how they spent contributions in the wake of September 11, 2001, the tsunami in Asia, Hurricane Katrina, recovery efforts in Haiti and various other disasters over the last 10 years have done little to help such organizations better serve people in need. Rather, by concentrating on the few bad cases, or by misrepresenting administrative expenses as somehow completely unnecessary, these media stories have made potential supporters quite suspicious of all charities, and those these organization's serve pay the ultimate price.
There has never been a better time for not-for-profit organizations, non-governmental organizations/NGOs, grass roots organizations, schools, and other mission-based organizations to use technology to show their transparency and credibility, and to teach the media and general public about the resources and expertise needed to address critical human and environmental needs.
Make sure that your organization's web site CLEARLY states:
- the history (including date of incorporation with your local government) and mission of the organization
- what impact the organization has on the community or those the organization serves -- not the number of services you provide but, rather, what IMPACT these services have (and examples of such!)
- the latest finances for the agency (a detailed list of the expenditures from the latest fiscal year is a must; at least a summary of income is also a must)
- how to obtain a copy of the organization's 990 form (if the organization is based in the USA), and other official financial statements and government-filed documents (you can also simply scan these yourself and have them available for viewing on your web site)
- names of board members
- name and credentials of Executive Director, and other key staff
That's the minimum you must do to establish your organization as credible and accountable. But there's even more you can do :
Also, on your web site, in presentations, and in your funding proposals, TALK ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE TECH MAKES in your organization's work. Be as graphic and detailed as possible. How does the copy machine help meet your
organization's goals and serve more people? What about computers and Internet access for all staff? What software
is used by staff to help your nonprofit reach its goals, and why is it fundamental to your organization's success?
- post testimonials from those who have used or been served by your organization
- post testimonials by representatives from government or other organizations endorsing your work
- post photos of volunteers and staff in action, or of clients being served by your program
- provide detailed information about how and why your organization involves volunteers, as well as how people can volunteer
- blog about your work. Be open about challenges you've faced and how you are addressing them
- post evaluation reports of your programs - including those that find fault
- post white papers that would be helpful to others working in organizations with similar or related missions
- link to media articles about your program, including those that are critical
Let the public (and, hopefully, the media) understand that administrative activities are absolutely essential to help your organization serve even more people, do even more with donations, and engage in even more activities to meet the stated mission of the organization.
In addition: track your online profile. For instance, go to Google or any other online directory system and search for your organization's name, the name of your
organization's executive director, your web address, or key phrases, such as:
- the word "contact" and the name of your organization
- the word "volunteer" and the name of your organization,
or, a phrase relating to your mission
- the word "donate" and a phrase relating to your mission
Doing these kind of searches can help you to see how easy
it is for someone looking to volunteer with, donate to or
contact an organization with a particular focus to be able
to find you online. It also will give you an idea of how
many web sites are linked to your organization's site, and
what the media and other publications may have said about
the head of your organization. You may find criticism or
praise from a volunteer, donor, or client about your
organization that you will want to address.
- The Global Development Research Center, an independent nonprofit think tank that carries out initiatives in education, research and practice, in the spheres of environment, urban, community and information, and at scales that are effective. Its NGO Management Toolbox includes a section on NGO Accountability and on NGO Credibility and Legitimacy.
- Web Site Design Suggestions for Nonprofits, NGOs and Small Government Agencies
Some more fundamentals regarding web site design for nonprofits, NGOs, civil society organizations, government agencies, schools and other mission-based organizations.
- Is Your Staff "Walking the Talk" Re: Your Organization's Online Activities?
Mission-based organizations use the Internet in all sorts of ways to interact with the public, or with staff and volunteers abroad: for instance, online discussion groups, an intranet where staff and volunteers can share profiles about themselves and updates about their work with each other, or an online service that is promoted as central to the organization's mission and identity. But is your staff showing leadership in using these online tools? If your organization is to use technology successfully, all staff must embrace it. Here are tips on how to encourage that.
- Does Your Organization's Practices Reflect Its Own Mission?
Being successful in today's business and media climate means an organization must reflect in practice the values it promotes publicly. This latest article offers examples of organizations who aren't "walking their talk" regarding their mission, and the consequences such organization's face in not doing so.
See more resources re: Community Relations, With and Without Technology
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