Eight years ago, Art Taylor spoke at the first Better Business Bureau Charity Symposium in St. Louis. The BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance introduced standards for nonprofits so donors could make sound giving decisions and foster confidence in charitable organizations.
Back then, if a charity met the standards it could not place the Wise Giving Alliance seal on any fundraising materials or elsewhere. I remember addressing Mr. Taylor in front of a crowd of about 200 attendees and stating, “I work for the Boy Scouts and if a Scout meets all of the requirements for a badge, we give him the badge. Why not do the same with the seal if an organization meets the standards?”
After a smattering of applause from the assembly, Taylor said, “No, because we’re not going to do your marketing for you.”
Taylor, now the President and Chief Executive Officer of the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, returned to St. Louis on Thursday for the Eighth Annual BBB Charity Symposium. It took a few years, but the Wise Giving Alliance now allows organizations to proudly display the logo for meeting the standards. I believe the change increased awareness of the program. Organizations that earned the badge fully understand the importance of accountability, good governance and transparency.
“Use that seal,” Taylor said. “I know how many of you have the charity seal. Use it. Show the world that you meet these important standards. I get calls all the time from people who say they don’t give to any organization that doesn’t have the BBB seal. So if you have it, use it.”
The theme for the symposium was, “Giving: Focus on the Economy.” Taylor highlighted some areas that communicators and marketers should focus on. Organizations must thoroughly assess their ability to communicate their accomplishments.
“There will be some (organizations) that do well in these times and some that won’t,” Taylor said. “A lot of it depends on how well you cast your mission and how you reach out to donors. We can see from statistics that things are bad right now. This is not the greatest time to be in the market raising money. But what are we supposed to do? We can either fold up our tents and go home, or we can think about what we can do to manage through this difficult time.”
Taylor suggested that organizations focus on collaborative projects, consider adding or improving fee-based income streams and applying for government and foundation grants.
“When we seem to have money, no one wants to work together,” Taylor said. “But when we don’t have the resources, we tend to come together and figure out ways of getting things done that can actually be more beneficial to the people we serve than going at it alone.”
Taylor sees a trend in donors and others demanding organizational effectiveness information from nonprofits. Marketers and communicators can provide valued skills and expertise here. By providing strategic communication on outcomes, they can enhance their organization’s standing and their own value to the charity.
“People want to know if you are effective in meeting your mission,” Taylor said. “Are you meeting your goals? I think it is important for organizations to share that information. People want to know if you are doing what you were established to do.”
Taylor encouraged communicators to keep pursuing media placements. Media might be more receptive to a story on how organizations are collaborating to solve problems in the community.
“When I talk to media, I tell them that virtually everything going on in society has a charity angle to it,” Taylor said. “For every problem we have, there’s a charity working to solve it in some way. If they want to, there’s a way to put a charity into every story.”
For more information on the BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance Standards, visit http://stlouis.bbb.org/.
A special note of thanks to Jim Judge, who directs the local BBB Wise Giving Alliance, and Michelle Corey, the President and Chief Executive Officer of the St. Louis BBB, for their long-term commitment to assisting local nonprofits and charities through this symposium.