Posted by Lisa Thompson

Last fall, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported that about 35% of people in the U.S. don’t trust charities. While most people feel good about the work that nonprofits do, there remains a significant number who feel suspicious.

When it comes to securing your donors’ trust, honesty is always the best policy. Being transparent about your finances removes a roadblock for potential donors who could be skeptical about giving to an unfamiliar organization. Plus, it reassures your current donors that your operations are all above board.

Even if you feel like you’re doing all you can to earn your donors’ trust, there may be a few simple steps you can take to go the extra mile. Here are five ways to instill confidence and make your constituents proud to support you.

  1. Be sure your nonprofit shows up on the IRS’ Exempt Organizations Select Checklist. The IRS keeps a list of registered nonprofits that are eligible to receive tax-deductible donations, and donors can use an online search tool called EO Select Check to research tax-exempt NPOs. If you are a registered nonprofit in good standing, make sure that your name is on this list.
  2. Update your listing at GuideStar. GuideStar publishes your 990 information from the IRS, but you can also update your listing with details about your mission, programs, leaders, goals and accomplishments. GuideStar is often a first stop when a donor or a foundation is looking for information on a nonprofit, as it was the first central source of information on U.S. nonprofits.
  3. Check your organization’s rating at CharityNavigator. This watchdog organization assesses several 501(c)(3) organizations based, in part, on their financial efficiency. CharityNavigator assesses the ratio of overhead expenses (particularly fundraising expenses) to a nonprofit’s overall budget. They don’t evaluate every nonprofit, but by following its criteria for highly rated organizations, you can bolster your reputation among donors.
  4. Display the Better Business Bureau accredited charity seal. The Wise Giving Alliance at the Better Business Bureau provides a way for citizens to check up on nonprofits just like they can with businesses. Organizations that meet the BBB’s standards can become accredited and display the accredited charity seal.
  5. Post your 990 on your website. Your IRS form 990 tax return is a public document that’s available to the public through the IRS and on websites like GuideStar. Why not make it easy to find by posting it on your website as well?

    You also might consider listing your board of directors, posting your most recent audit and a synopsis of recent board activity. The more information you offer, the more assured donors will be that supporting your organization is a worthwhile cause.

Firespring provides nonprofits with beautiful websites that have all the essential tools built right in. Just give us a call at 877.447.8941 or send an email to