Americans are eager to contribute to charities, but may be discouraged by the major disconnect between the public’s high expectations for ethics and accountability by charities and its frustration at not being able to find the necessary information to make the right decisions about giving.
A survey of more than 2,00 adult Americans conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates reveals that many Americans have trouble finding the information they need to evaluate charities and make decisions about giving. Less than half (49 percent) say it is easy to find the information they seek. And while the public’s main source of information is the charities themselves, only half (50 percent) of those surveyed credit charities with making the appropriate information available.
“Donors most definitely want to hold charities accountable for their use of funds, but the inability to access information often stands in their way,” says Art Taylor, president and CEO of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, which sponsored the survey. “Most people—70 percent—say it is difficult to tell whether a charity soliciting their contribution is legitimate, and many—72 percent—also say it is difficult to choose between organizations that raise money for similar causes.”
These difficulties were dramatically highlighted in the past month as Americans attempted to respond to the needs of those impacted by the September 11 terrorist attacks. A high volume of inquiries to the Alliance substantiated the eagerness of donors to give, and gave voice to widespread questions about how to evaluate the accuracy of the charity appeals/promotions and the effectiveness of the many disaster relief programs.
The Alliance says the charitable community needs to find cost-effective ways to address the information needs and accountability concerns of donors.
“The survey findings not only confirm the public’s interest in many long established issues, such as how much charities spend on programs and fund raising, but they also identify emerging areas such as privacy, online giving and effectiveness measurements,” says Taylor. “The Alliance will use the findings to improve the quality of information and services that we provide to donors in our role as a charity reporting organization.”