Tools of the Trade: BBB Accreditation and Social Media for Nonprofits– December 07, 2015

We were thrilled to recently host our “Strengthening Your Nonprofit” seminar. In addition to giving us another opportunity to interact with our clients, the audience walked away with practical tools to help enhance their organizations.

Bennett Weiner of the of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance focused on the goal of their Charity Accreditation Process: to strengthen and verify donor trust by offering potential donors a set of objective, significant standards by which to measure participating nonprofits.

Mr. Weiner explained that the process of being accredited takes a holistic approach, using 20 broad standards against which to evaluate charities. The main focus areas include governance and oversight, effectiveness/results reporting, financial management, and transparency of fundraising and solicitation materials. The process extends beyond an organization’s 990, instead looking to the audit for a more reliable financial picture. There is no charge to apply for accreditation, and the ultimate report is made available free to the public.

Mr. Weiner noted that while not every nonprofit applies for the accreditation, and it certainly is not mandatory, there is documented merit. A 2013 Study by Baruch College, The City University of New York reported that meeting all 20 BBB Charity Standards was positively associated with an 8% increase in public support.

He also pointed out the top “problem areas” for many nonprofits trying to receive the accreditation, such as not creating a comprehensive annual report, not providing a written effectiveness/impact report every two years to the board, and not meeting with the board frequently enough. But Mr. Weiner emphasized that even if an organization does not meet a standard or two, it’s not the end of world. Deficiencies can be addressed to come into compliance and earn the accreditation. Read more about what is evaluated under each of the BBB’s Accreditation Standards.

Shon Christy and Mark Krohn of Focal Point Social Media shared with our clients how to use social media effectively in their nonprofit organizations. They provided real-world instances of how social media is driving revenue and creating a movement, citing the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge” as a prime example.

Using social media to boost the brand of an organization, and ultimately its donations, has nothing to do with “likes” or followers, according to the Mr. Christy and Mr. Krohn. It’s about engagement, motivation and sharing. Creating a movement and causing people to ACT requires a pivotal shift from traditional, board-driven fundraising to social, audience-driven fundraising.

Why is social media the perfect vehicle to create a movement? Social media:

1. Is not dependent on time. No one has to clear their calendar to meet. You can post your information and let others get back to you on their time.

2. Is not limited by geography. Social media allows you to reach your contacts easily around the globe.

3. Is exponential in its reach. You can persuade the masses with one push of a button.

4. Eliminates unsolicited messages, or push marketing, because those connected to your organization have already opted-in to see your messages.

Mr. Christy and Mr. Krohn also discussed the keys to success:

  1. STRATEGY – It’s not just about the tools! Write down what you plan to accomplish and how. If it’s not a written strategy, it’s not a real strategy.
  2. Fundraising is NOT about fundraising. It’s about creating a movement. Get people excited to help change the lives of others.
  3. Don’t underestimate the power of ENGAGEMENT!

While our experts covered a variety of other areas to drill down into regarding social media, they told attendees to think big. Whatever your goals are, they might not be big enough. Don’t underestimate the power of social media.

We wrapped our event with a peer panel of nonprofit leaders, including John Carmichael of NewBridge Cleveland, Hugh Carslaw of Apollo's Fire, Liz Schultz of Oberlin Heritage Center and Jim Walton of University Circle. Attendees enjoyed an interactive discussion on issues they all face, from diversifying donor sources to dispelling the overhead myth, to doing more with social media and finding and retaining the right employees.

View our presentations from the day, or let us know if you want to be on our mailing list for future nonprofit events.

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