Building a Socially Responsible Reputation as a Nonprofit

by Danielle Bloom

2 min read

When you manage a nonprofit that depends heavily on voluntary donations, a socially responsible reputation is a must. Although nonprofits are dedicated to social well-being, they can still suffer from a lack of trust – according to the 2015 What Canadian Donors Want study from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, 40% of Canadians believe that charities direct more donated funds to administrative overhead than they report. By building a strong reputation, you can help donors believe that your organization operates with integrity, so they can support you with confidence.

Define Ethical Standards

Ethics are the bedrock of a socially responsible nonprofit. When the public sees that your organization acts morally at all times – especially when it’s uncomfortable or inconvenient – they’re more likely to trust you. When you’re building a culture of integrity, it’s important to define ethics. Your company handbook should lay out your ethical principles and explain how they affect everyday business and employee treatment. Help your staff understand how to apply each principle by bringing up the topic in weekly meetings. Once you have established a code of ethics, it’s time to think about enforcement. In the nonprofit world, reporting on other employees can cause serious social repercussions, so it can be helpful to set up a confidential channel.

Be Transparent

Transparency is a big part of building a reputation for social responsibility – especially when it comes to your finances. When you’re open about spending, it’s easier to create trust and confidence. Start by keeping detailed records of donations, fundraising income, grants, and other resources. Then, track where each dollar goes, even if your nonprofit isn’t bound by legal spending requirements. Make it easy for the public to find this information by releasing detailed reports online, or send it out to your mailing list and invite feedback.

Assist Other Causes

It’s a given that your nonprofit serves its own cause, but to build a more powerful reputation for social responsibility, consider supporting other positive efforts. Ask employees and board members to volunteer at community cleanup days, for example, or loan out your nonprofit’s facility to local support groups that meet after business hours. You might also consider creating a presence at worthwhile local events, such as educational workshops or job-training sessions. These actions increase your organization’s visibility and associate it with positive, socially beneficial activities.

Go Green

Going green shows a commitment to the community and the environment – and for an organization that’s strapped for cash, it can also come with financial benefits. Some possible green practices include:

  • Going paperless in the office
  • Starting a recycling program
  • Installing inexpensive devices to shut off power and lower thermostats during non-working hours
  • Allowing staff to telecommute one or more days per week

Promotion

At the end of the day, public perception determines your organization’s reputation. It’s up to you to handle promotion – without it, many of your socially responsible efforts are invisible to the average person in your community. When your company does something great, send out a press release and post to your social media pages. Include a section about social responsibility in your brochures to bring in new donors and employees. The process of building a socially responsible reputation happens from the inside out. By focusing your policies, practices, and promotions on a set of core values, you can improve public perception.

References & Resources

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