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How to Protect Your Nonprofit’s Online Reputation

Not all the information that people find about you online is generated by your nonprofit organization. A number of online services rank and rate nonprofit organizations against such criteria as financial health, use of resources, transparency, and constituent feedback.

You don’t have the power to change the data these services use or their ways of interpreting that data. However, you can provide them with accurate or updated information. So, be vigilant about looking at online reviews of your nonprofit so that you’re aware of any critiques; and be proactive if your nonprofit is criticized.

Here’s a list of major sites that review nonprofits so you can provide them with up-to-date information:

  • The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance rates approximately 1,300 national nonprofits. Local BBBs also review nonprofits — approximately 10,000 of them. They use a range of standards to grade nonprofits.

    You can strengthen your rating by building your board of directors and making sure it meets more than three times a year, paying attention to the balance between your management costs and program expenses, being honest and transparent in fundraising materials, and providing options for donors who don’t want their names to be disclosed.

    You can also gain a seal as a BBB Accredited Charity, for which you’ll have to pay a fee on a sliding scale of $1,000 to $15,000 per year.

  • Charity Navigator analyzes the finances, apparent effectiveness, and transparency of approximately 6,000 of the United States’ largest charities with revenues of more than $1 million, and assigns 0- to 4-star ratings. If you are a new, emerging nonprofit, you’re unlikely to be included on this charity rating site, but it might be helpful to understand how nonprofits are assessed so you can plan for the future.

    On the homepage of Charity Navigator’s website, you can find information about how it analyzes nonprofits. Apart from the long-term hard work of growing your organization and containing overhead costs, your nonprofit can improve its rating by having conflict-of-interest and whistle-blower policies and publishing a donor privacy policy on your website.

  • GuideStar offers an array of nonprofit information and is particularly valuable for posting three years of nonprofits’ most recent 990 tax forms. You can strengthen your presence on GuideStar by writing the profile of your organization and checking to be certain that your most recent 990 forms are posted. The IRS provides the 990 forms to GuideStar directly, and occasionally there’s a delay.

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