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WHERE'S THE BEEF?

JAMES WALLACE

· INK SPOTS

If you're old enough (like me), you probably remember the funny little old lady in the Wendy's commercials who screeched, "Where's the beef?"

I find myself asking the same thing when I can't find the financial information on a non-profit's website. "Where's the financial information?"

It's weird to have to ask this question since I focus on non-profits rated 4 or 3 stars on Charity Navigator. These are all reputable non-profits, with high CN scores.

It's also a shame. Why? Because most prospective donors are ready to donate when they search for a non-profit's financials. They've watched the videos or read the stories. They've reviewed your mission, who you are, where you work, what you do. They've made the emotional connection and have spent some time clicking around your website, getting to know you. All good, right?

Right, but. But what? The last thing most prospective donors need to do, after they have made the emotional decision to partner with you, is to rationalize that decision. This is where the logical part of the brain kicks in. You have 'em where you want 'em. Then you blow it by hiding the financials.

Maybe you're not hiding them per se, but that's how it looks. A prospective donor is not going to click that "DONATE HERE" button if he can't justify his already-make emotional decision. He has to confirm to his logical brain (is that right side or left side?) his emotion decision is also a rational decision.

How? By confirming you are good stewards of his money. You've been vetted by Charity Navigator, ECFA, BBB, and Charity Watch. Good. So now a quick look at your most-recent Form 990 and Audited Financial Statements and it's go time. Hang on. Where are they? The user clicks around, can't find them, and "x's" out. Darn. You were seconds away from a nice (and probably recurring) donation.

Granted, some donors don't look at financials. Many do, even if it's a cursory look. And most, if not all, bigger donors do.

I just did a scientific (that sounds wisely academic) survey of 13 non-profits, chosen randomly. Here's what I found: nine of them have excellent financial visibility and transparency. The financials were easy to find, and current. Kudos to you all. Four of them did not fare well, however. That's roughly 30%. I have little doubt if I sampled 100 non-profits, the percentage of financially opaque non-profits would still be around 25%.

The non-profits who fail the financial transparency test often have some statement about how they believe in financial transparency - which is all the more aggravating. The problems run the gamut, from zero mention of financials (rare in my subset of non-profits), to hiding the link in another link (sort of like a game of Where's Waldo), to burying the financials in a microscopic footnote, to having to click over to Charity Navigator and sign up for an account to access the 990s (good luck on that one), to having only outdated financials posted, to a pious statement about how transparent the non-profit is and you are welcome to request the financials from the organization (arrrgghhh!).

I am ready to donate. I connected with your stories. You seem likeable (I spell it that way, because likable looks to me like lick-able which is untenable). I've clicked around. My wallet is out. Don't make me find Waldo, or go sign up for an account, or call or email you for financials. Give them to me on your website, and make them readily visible.

For crying out loud (one of my favorite phrases, love slipping it in), you've got a strong rating from third-party arbiters. Shine a bright light on your financial stewardship and accountability. Push my brain over the goal line. Make me look compassionate and smart.

 

_____

LIGHT SPARK MEDIA

jw@lightsparkmedia.com

512-585-6019

Copyright 2020 James Wallace

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