A Consumer Reports for nonprofits?

A Consumer Reports for nonprofits?

Most small donors do not have the necessary information to compare nonprofits. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/oblivion/2474368767/in/photostream/">oblivion9999 (Flickr)</a>
Most small donors do not have the necessary information to compare nonprofits. Photo: oblivion9999 (Flickr)

Does the marketplace for nonprofit donations need its own Consumer Reports?

The magazine makes the U.S. retail market more efficient by informing shoppers’ decisions. It’s accessible and easy to use. However, comprehensive comparison data for nonprofits simply doesn't exist. Donors who want third-party information on nonprofits must use a variety of sources such as Better Business Bureau or Charity Navigator—sites which still don’t include impact ratings.

Even though some data is out there, a surprisingly small number of donors—about one in five—use watchdog organizations or online sources to assess the accountability and transparency of nonprofits, according to a recent study. Most donors rely on information from friends and family.

Scholars find that personal and emotional stories are much more likely to motivate donors than technical report cards—another reason for the gap in information.

We’re compelled to give to those in need, but how do we make sure that the groups we give to are making a long-term, positive impact?

Generosity is essential, but generosity alone is not enough. “Generosity is nothing more and nothing less than the foundation upon which we build. We won’t solve the big problems of the world just by opening our hearts,” writes Sasha Dichter for Acumen Fund. Generosity is more than giving; “generosity is an active orientation towards the world and all its messiness.”

If generosity is an active orientation, then donors should actively inform themselves so that they can make a greater impact. A Consumer Reports for nonprofits would be a start.

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