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Information is Power When You Ask Good Questions

June 7, 2015

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Consider walking through the grocery store, reflecting on what seems like thousands of options in salad dressing.

Clever packaging may catch your eye, but I bet you’re also interested in the ingredients, the calories, the price, and of course, past experience tells you what tastes you have enjoyed or care to forget.  Although you may be grateful to Publix, Whole Foods or Trader Joes for carrying so many choices, you do not assume each is “good” simply because it is available.

People are different. Consumers are different. Donors are different. We make choices based on that perfect combination of what’s most important to us. Most of us look for a combination that addresses value, our personal taste, and our expectations—whether we’re talking about a salad dressing or a charitable donation.

Last week we published a post about nonprofit trust and transparency.

The Giving Partner allows nonprofits in Southwest Florida to share in-depth information about their financials, leadership, programmatic impact, needs and strategies.  But the availability of such rich data points and stories for hundreds of organizations is only part of the story. We have the power to make informed choices when we use the information to compare, ask, and get engaged before we give.

You’ll see a “Reviewed by Your Community Foundation” icon by each organization in The Giving Partner that has disclosed key information annually. The “Reviewed” icon is not an endorsement for the organization. It’s certainly not our role to rate nonprofits or to say who is “good” or “bad.”

Donors, businesses, the media and funders can make informed choices by doing a few things:

  1. Look to see if the nonprofit has an updated profile in The Giving Partner. Remember that the “Reviewed by Your Community Foundation” icon isn’t a seal of approval.

  2. Find out what is most important to you. Does the organization provide specific stories and data that demonstrate it is making an impact? Do its IRS Form 990s and audits indicate financial health? Is the board committed, showing up to board meetings and making personal donations to the organization? Can the nonprofit articulate its goals for the future? Are standard policies in place? These are just a few questions you can research in The Giving Partner.

  3. Ask questions. If there is something you want to learn more about, reach out to the organization and ask. Good organizations always have accessible and knowledgeable people who are happy to talk with you and provide more information.

It’s important that nonprofits and donors alike feel empowered to connect with each other about choices in philanthropy. It starts with information but doesn’t end there.  The Giving Partner is a launching point.

-Susie Bowie
Community Foundation of Sarasota County

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