Posted by Jay Wilkinson

Like it or not, what other people think about your organization matters. While you can’t prevent negative reviews, especially in this day and age of social media and online review sites, you can take control of your brand’s online rep. Here’s where to start.

  1. Create a consistent brand, logo and mission statement. Be sure to carry this consistency throughout your website, social media pages and all other marketing materials. Be clear to your audience about who you are and what you stand for—that consistency will help you build a solid positive reputation as a nonprofit that’s trustworthy and committed to its cause.
  2. Solicit honest reviews. Sometimes a simple request is all it takes. Don’t pay for reviews (that’s unethical), but feel free to ask constituents and supporters if they’d be willing to share their opinion of your organization. Use a suggestion box or a site like SurveyMonkey to get feedback from people connected to your organization. Responses can be anonymous, though they’re more credible if actual names are used. This is an effective way to get positive testimonials to feature on both your website and social media pages.
  3. Think before you respond to negative reviews. It can be hard to resist writing something negative back. After you read something unsettling, pause and breathe. If someone writes something false about your organization, then it may behoove you to set the record straight—in a professional manner. But if someone is just blowing off steam, it may be best to let it go. Getting into a “he said, she said” online never helps a brand’s street cred.
  4. Set up Google Alerts. These are free email updates sent to your inbox any time your search terms are mentioned on Google. You could set up alerts for your name, your nonprofit’s name and any other way that people identify your organization. This will notify you of conversations about your nonprofit so you can respond promptly, if need be.
  5. Continually add content to high-ranking sites. 
There are a number of websites that have high authority with Google. By increasing your content on those sites, you can get positive content pages to show up higher in search results and push down any pages with negative content. Three of these sites include Slideshare, Quora and YouTube.

And, of course, not all the information people find online about your nonprofit comes from you and your reviewers. A number of online services rank and rate nonprofit organizations based on factors like financial health, use of resources, transparency and constituent feedback. Here are three of the biggest.

The Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance rates around 1,300 national nonprofits. Local BBBs also review about 10,000 nonprofits. They use a range of standards to grade nonprofits. You can strengthen your rating by building your board of directors and have it meet more than three times a year, paying attention to the balance between your management costs and program expenses, staying transparent in fundraising materials and providing options for donors who wish to remain anonymous.

Charity Navigator analyzes the finances, apparent effectiveness and transparency of approximately 6,000 of the United States’ largest charities with revenues of more than $1 million, and assigns 0–4 star ratings. If you’re a new nonprofit, you’re unlikely to be included on this site, but it might be helpful to understand how nonprofits are assessed. On the homepage of Charity Navigator’s website, you can find information about how it analyzes nonprofits. 

GuideStar offers valuable nonprofit information and is particularly valuable for posting three years of nonprofits’ most recent 990 tax forms. You can strengthen your presence on GuideStar by writing the profile of your organization and making certain that your most recent 990 forms are posted. The IRS provides the 990 forms to GuideStar directly, and occasionally there’s a delay.