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Know your 'Donor Bill of Rights' | Lynn Bohart
Making a donation to a charity in which you believe is a voluntary act. No one makes you do it. Yet, we have built a culture in this country that supports, and even encourages philanthropy to improve our quality of life. But how do you know if your gift has been put to good use?
Many years ago, the Association of Fundraising Professionals developed what they call the “Donor Bill of Rights.” This document was created in order to set a standard nonprofits could use to generate confidence between themselves and their donors. The “Donor Bill of Rights,” stipulates donors have the right to such things as: knowing how funds are being spent; that the organization complies with federal, state, and municipal laws; that gifts will be used for the purpose intended; to be informed as to the identity of those serving on the governing board; and receiving appropriate acknowledgement and recognition for their gift. In short, donors have a right to the information that will make them feel good about their donation.
I tell you this because most people don’t know about the “Donor Bill of Rights.” They often make donations because somebody they trust asked them to. They never delve any further into how the organization operates, even though they just turned over some of their hard-earned cash. We wouldn’t buy a big-screen TV that way. If you bought a TV and it didn’t work, you would take it back and perhaps never shop at that store again. Making a donation isn’t as clear cut. Once we write that check, we really don’t know what happens to it. We just have faith that it will be used in the way we intended. So, why don’t we take the time to get to know our charities better? After all, when we make a donation, we don’t get anything nearly as tangible in return as a big-screen TV.
I would argue that as donors, we not only have the right to know more about our charities, we have a responsibility. I would also speculate that most of the nonprofits (certainly those I’m familiar with) would welcome the opportunity to share more information with you. All you have to do is ask. Increased interaction with donors would not only build confidence in you as the donor, it would help charities communicate better with the public and possibly even increase donations.
At the Renton Community Foundation, we have our “Donor Bill of Rights” right on our website. We want people to know up front that we recognize their right to certain information. If you make regular donations to a local charity, I would encourage you to first visit the Association of Fundraising Professional’s website and read the full “Donor Bill of Rights.” Then, take the time to give your charity a call to get to know them better. That might only involve a quick chat on the phone or getting on their newsletter mailing list. But it might also spark a personal visit, or even (dare I suggest) an opportunity for you to volunteer. If you will do this – if you will make a commitment to get to know your charity in more detail – I guarantee we will all benefit.