The BBB seeks to help donors verify charity trustworthiness by completing rigorous evaluations using the holistic BBB Standards for Charity Accountability. BBB charity reporting has always been about strengthening trust in the solicitations marketplace, serving a unique role for the donating public. None of the other charity evaluators have standards with as much depth or as broad a scope. BBB charity reporting has always involved due process and fairness, a hallmark trait of BBB activity.
Today, charity reporting has become even more relevant to both the public and the business community. If one includes national charity reports produced by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance as well as the reports on regional charities provided by BBB of Central Illinois and 55 other BBBs, the BBB system cumulatively produces over 11,000 charity reports—more than any other major charity evaluator.
One of our goals with this process is to help strengthen charity practices. Our holistic Standards for Charity Accountability covers a wide range of topics that goes beyond the financial ratios and formulas. Charities that work to meet all of our standards are fulfilling expectations many donors have about the organizations they give to.
The BBB Wise Giving Alliance, national charity-reporting arm of the BBB, convened a panel of people with a range of experience in philanthropy and worked over a three-year period in an open process, issuing drafts and soliciting input from the charitable community before publishing the standards in 2003. The standards cover four areas that seek to ensure the following:
- Governance. The volunteer charity board is active, independent and free of self-dealing.
- Results reporting (effectiveness). The charity has measurable goals and objectives in place and is annually providing a report to the board that covers these results.
- Finances. The charity spends its funds honestly and prudently and provides financial statements on request.
- Solicitations. The charity’s representations to the public are accurate, complete and respectful.
BBB prepares a draft BBB Charity Report in relation to its Standards for Charity Accountability, and after it is sent to the organization for review and comment, makes a final report available to the public at bbb.org.
We welcome any information from a charity that might affect the content and conclusions of our report. While not all “does-not-meet” conclusions can be immediately modified, charities’ post-draft input is considered with care and often reflected in the final report. In addition, findings can be amended at any time after a report has been published if the charity provides documentation of changes to meet the specific standard(s) that were not met.
It is true that much information is needed when there are 20 comprehensive standards to apply. However, the giving public wants to know more about charities than their finances (a fact confirmed in a survey we commissioned), and charities themselves support a set of standards that recognizes other important parts of their operations, like results reporting, ethical governance and donor privacy.
The standards are voluntary and go beyond what the law requires. Most charities, in our experience, operate well within the law. But just being law-abiding isn’t likely to attract public support. Donors want to see that charities are ready, voluntarily, to show their commitment to openness and ethical conduct and demonstrate that their efforts are sharply focused on their mission. Filing information for a BBB charity report gives charities a way to do that.
If a charity is found to meet all 20 standards of the BBB Standards for Charity Accountability, it is called a BBB Accredited Charity. BBB Accredited Charities have the option of licensing a BBB charity seal for a sliding scale fee which can be placed on the charity’s website and appeals. If a charity seal participant is found to no longer meet standards or does not provide updated information when requested to complete a current review, it is terminated from the seal program.
The BBB is committed to help the public make wise giving decisions and improve practices among soliciting charities in the community. iBi