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How to Increase Your Nonprofit’s Transparency Using Charity Watchdogs

If you aren’t familiar with the concept of a “charity watchdog,” then you’re probably familiar with at least one or two of them. Organizations like GuideStar, Charity Navigator, and the Better Business Bureau’s Give.org aggregate information on nonprofit organizations to empower perspective donors, volunteers, grantors, board members, and employees to make informed decisions about the organizations and causes to which they can devote their time, energy, and resources. If you’re not engaging with websites like these to boost credibility and knowledge around your organization, then you’re missing out on a huge component of what it means to gain the trust of your donors and community.

Charity watchdog organizations are crucial for fostering transparency in the nonprofit sector. And if there’s one thing that donors feel strongly about, it’s transparency. According to surveys by Fidelity Charitable, Give.org, and the Johnson Center:

  • 65% of donors would be more influenced to give if they had greater insight into the impact of their giving
  • 64% of donors rated trusting a charity before they give as essential


  • Only 35% of those surveyed think that nonprofits are doing well when it comes to transparency about funding.

There are a few easy ways to make sure that your organization is as transparent as possible using charity watchdog websites:

Start with your form 990

Your form 990, which is made publicly available, if the first place watchdogs will go for information on your organization. They’ll aggregate information about financials, leadership, and company policies, so make sure your 990 is filled out in as detailed a way as possible!

Earn a GuideStar Platinum Seal of Transparency – make sure you tell your story!

Be sure to claim your nonprofit profile on GuideStar and update it to the top levels of transparency. It only takes 45 minutes to achieve a Platinum certification by filling in basic information as well as your strategic plan, impact statements, and quantitative metrics from the past year. Platinum Seal organizations receive 50% more views than those with Bronze of Silver seals.

Utilize your website

The best-rated charities have websites that provide evidence of impact, support opportunities, community engagement, and accountability (links to most recent 990). Your donors need to see the impact of their gifts, have an easy way to give on your website, know what is coming up for your organization, and see your credibility (post that seal of transparency!).

This post was taken from our webinar on Improving Your Nonprofit’s Charity Ratings. Register to view it here.

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