“Transparency is the mark of a well-run charity,” according to H. Art Taylor, chief executive and president of BBB Wise Giving Alliance, a standards-based charity evaluator related to the Better Business Bureau. “Failure to disclose important operations information demonstrates a complete disregard to the importance of trust.”
Last week, BBB WGA released a list of 10 large charities, including several boldface names, that it said had failed to disclose requested information needed to verify their trustworthiness.
The organization said it released its list of top “transparency dodgers” to underscore the importance of donors researching nonprofits before contributing money and time.
BBB WGA receives inquiries from individual donors seeking verification of a charity’s trustworthiness.
It follows up by sending as many as three written requests to the nonprofit group, one of them via certified mail, inviting the charity to enroll without charge in BBB WGA’s Online Charity Reporting system so that it can access a detailed questionnaire that goes well beyond publicly available financial information, such as the IRS Form 990.
BBB WGA then evaluates the information based on 20 standards that address charity governance, results reporting, finances, fundraising, appeal accuracy and other issues.
If the charity does not respond to the written requests, BBB WGA posts a report explaining its nondisclosure status. Before doing this, however, it sends the charity a draft copy of the report as part of the third request letter.
“The majority of charities agree to an evaluation, and it’s concerning when charities refuse,” Taylor said in a statement.
“Failure to disclose information isn’t just about snubbing the BBB WGA reporting process—these charities are snubbing the people and donors who are asking BBB WGA to verify the charity’s trustworthiness.”
In a new statement released Wednesday, BBB WGA said it had originally identified 20 national charities for potential inclusion on its list of transparency dodgers.
Informed of the intended campaign, 10 charities either provided partial information or enrolled to start the information-submission process.
Following are BBB WGA’s top 10 transparency dodgers, ranked by fiscal year 2014 total contributions.
1. Dana-Farber Cancer Institute—$403 million
2. Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center—$353 million
3. Teach For America—$295 million
4. NeighborWorks America—$254 million
5. John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts—$171 million
6. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation—$127 million
7. City Year—$125 million
8. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum—$111 million
9. Pact—$109 million
10. Local Initiatives Support Corporation—$105 million
(In its Wednesday statement, BBB WGA said Pact had subsequently enrolled in its Online Charity Reporting system.)