Study: Transparency boosts giving

Written on Jan 09, 2019

Nonprofits that are more transparent and proactively share information with the public received 53% more in contributions the following year than organizations that were less transparent, according to a new study.

The report, Determinants and Consequences of Nonprofit Transparency, by Erica Harris and Daniel Neely, compared total contributions of organizations that earned a GuideStar Seal of Transparency with those that did not, analyzing data from 2012 to 2013.

Researchers initially looked at more than 14,000 nonprofits in the GuideStar database, selecting more than 6,300 to examine more closely.

Earning a GuideStar Seal of Transparency is voluntary and requires more information than what is required on the annual IRS Form 990 tax return. Even when controlling for other factors, such as organization size, fundraising expenses, governance, and ratings by third parties, such as Charity Navigator or BBB Wise Giving Alliance, the authors still found transparency “strongly related” to increased contributions.”

GuideStar’s Seal of Transparency has four levels currently: Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum. Researchers did not distinguish between each seal level and the Platinum seal did not exist during the time period studied. Of the almost 67,000 current seal holders, about 29,000 are Bronze, 16,601 are Silver and more than 14,000 are Gold, according to GuideStar.

“We find evidence consistent with organizations that have stronger governance, better performance, and more professional staff being associated with greater transparency,” according to the paper’s abstract. “Organizations that are more reliant on contributions, and those located in states that require public disclosure of their audited financial statements, are also more transparent.”

Leave a comment

Upcoming Events