Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Americans See Non Profits as "Somewhat Good"

You may have seen in the press lately on the August 2004 Brookings Institute survey of 1,417 respondents about Americans' views of charities. (http://www.brookings.edu).

The findings were:
Spending money wisely:
Very good 11%
Somewhat good 51%
Not too good 19%
Not good at all 7%

Helping people:
Very good 31%
Somewhat good 51%
Not too good 8%
Not good at all 2%

Being fair in their decisions:
Very good 17%
Somewhat good 56%
Not too good 9%
Not good at all 3%

Running their programs and services:
Very good 19%
Somewhat good 57%
Not too good 11%
Not good at all 2%
(Source: The Chronicle of Philanthropy , Vol. XVI, No. 23; September 16, 2004; pg. 35 graphic)

For each story that is bad publicity about a well known non profit agency, all non profit agencies take a hard hit to their credibility, too.

As grant writers we face public perception each time we interact with a grant donor.

Above, respondents were most concern about "Spending money wisely". Second to spending money, Americans were concerned about how well non profits "run their programs and services". Interestingly, Americans responded that non profits are pretty good at helping people.

There are non profit agencies that we could each think of that we know have not spent their money wisely or did not run their programs well. Public perception is probably tainted by those same news stories that you and I would point to. For each of us orgs that do run our programs well and spend money very well - perhaps we should ask ourselves, 'well, maybe we need to be making this known about our organization?'. Perhaps more than the damage bad press does to us, it is worse that our non profits are not getting air time for great operations and successful management.

And back to the results that indicate that the American public knows that non profits are helping people. Perhaps our organizations are getting this message out well? Perhaps Americans are altruistic? Maybe they have seen enough from their own interactions or of loved ones who have received assistance from a non profit that they know the work is being done well? I think American non profits have gotten better in the 1990's and the 2000's at explaining our work and our successes. I do think, though, that we have to tell more of the story, now. I think that we should be explaining our agencies' project management processes, (including our studies of outcomes that result in program/services changes because of feedback), and fiscal decision making policies to donors.

If your grant donors are not hearing this information from your organization through your grant proposals - I recommend that you tell them these processes in your 'end of grant report'. It will help them know their grant was a sound investment in a sound organization.

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