BBBs Charity Review places focus on accountability

BUFFALO – Recent news regarding telemarketing fundraising practices is calling attention to an important piece of charity accountability relating to finances. Better Business Bureau encourages donors to raise their awareness to more than the bottom line. BBBs Charity Review Program provides donors with the information they need to know before they give, looking into not only an organizations finances, but its governance, effectiveness and fundraising materials.

Intense scrutiny often surrounds the non-profit sector, including their fundraising practices. While telemarketing can deliver some funds, New York State’s Pennies for Charity annual report highlights this fundraising model as one that under delivers year after year, on average retaining less than 41.7 percent for the charities using them.

“Donors are accustomed to reviewing how a charity spends their money but it’s other factors – like weak governance, confusing fundraising materials or lack of public access to basic information – that can undermine efficacy,” said Warren Clark, President of BBB serving Upstate New York. “BBBs Wise Giving Alliance has worked with philanthropic experts to form our standards of charity accountability and we’re continuously working to educate the public to consider more factors as they make their own giving, support and volunteer decisions.”

Publicly soliciting organizations are held to different standards which allow them to secure their non-profit, tax exempt status through the IRS, yet well-meaning organizations can go astray without proper oversight or measurement of their effectiveness. For these reasons and many others, it is important public support is balanced with confidence in the charity’s performance along with transparent information from the organization.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance developed its 20 voluntary Standards for Charity Accountability with professional and technical assistance from representatives of small and large charitable organizations, the accounting profession, grant making foundations, corporate contributions officers, regulatory agencies, research organizations and BBB system. These comprehensive standards address charity finances, fund raising and informational materials, governance, effectiveness, donor privacy, and other aspects of charity operations. BBB reports on charities that meet its standards, charities that do not meet its standards, and charities that will not disclose their organization information to BBB.

Completing BBBs Charity Review process gives charities a way to illustrate trust and transparency to donors. Publicly soliciting charities in Upstate New York are invited to participate in BBB Charity Review. For more information about the review process visit BBB online at or email us at

Charity Review is part of BBB Foundation of Upstate New York Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to consumer, marketplace, and charitable giving education. As their philanthropic arm, BBB Foundation of Upstate New York Inc., provides educational outreach to ensure the development of a strong and ethical marketplace.

BBB offers some DOs and DON’Ts when it comes to making wise giving decisions:

DON’T succumb to high-pressure, emotional pitches. Giving on the spot is never necessary, no matter how hard a telemarketer or door-to-door solicitor pushes it. The charity that needs your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow after you’ve had time to do your homework.

DO check out the charity carefully. Make sure you feel comfortable with how your money will be spent. Don’t just take the word of someone else; even good friends may not have fully researched the charities they endorse. Go to to verify that a charity meets BBB Wise Giving Alliance’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.

DON’T assume that only “low overhead” matters. How much money a charity spends on the actual cause – as compared to how much goes toward fundraising and administration – is an important factor, but it’s not the whole story. A charity with impressive financial ratios could have other significant problems such as insufficient transparency, inadequate board activity and inaccurate appeals.

DO be sure it’s the right charity. With so many charities in existence, their names can blur in a donor’s mind and similar-sounding organizations are common. Many phony charities purposefully choose a name that sounds familiar. Be sure you know which charity you’re supporting and that it’s not a case of mistaken identity.

DON’T assume that the charity wants any item you donate. Worn out, unusable or unwanted donated goods cost charities millions of dollars each year because the organization has to bear the cost of storing or properly disposing of the unacceptable donation. If you have questions about an item’s acceptability, call the charity and ask.

DO consider easy text-to-give options. The BBB Mobile Giving Foundation makes it easy to give smaller donations (usually $10) to charities selected. Go to to find out more.

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