By Mollye Rhea, Founder and President, For Momentum
For Momentum’s Rich Maiore was quoted in a recent NBC News article about the impact of a spending scandal at the Wounded Warrior Project, which led to the firing of that organization’s CEO and COO. As Rich alluded to in the article, one of the side effects of any high-profile allegations of wrong-doing is increased scrutiny of other nonprofit organizations. In my opinion, increased scrutiny is a good thing. While no one can predict the future, companies must do their due diligence before entering into a corporate partnership. Below are some elements of the process we use when helping our corporate clients with researching and vetting nonprofit partners.
Third-Party Charity Ratings
America’s Charities, Charity Navigator and GuideStar are just a few of the third-party charity evaluators that research and rank nonprofit organizations. Ratings are based on a number of factors, including a nonprofit’s financials, governance and social impact over time. All three of these services now grade a charity’s transparency and accountability as part of their rating system. To do this, they visit the nonprofit’s website to analyze how willing the organization is to share information, which is precisely something your company should do when vetting a potential nonprofit partner.
Nonprofit Websites and Social Media Channels
Often the most comprehensive source of information about a charity is the organization’s website. Review the website for information about the mission, current projects, events and initiatives, staff and board members, annual reports and financial information. Look for signs of transparency, such as copies of their latest IRS Form 990 filings or links to their outside charity rankings. Do they post press releases and recent news articles? What is the organization blogging about or posting on their Facebook, Twitter or other social media channels?
Other Corporate Partners and Spokespeople
Nonprofit organizations often list their sponsors and corporate partners in their press releases or on dedicated pages on their websites. You’ll find a good example of this on the Habitat for Humanity International corporate partners page. Consider contacting the charity’s other corporate partners to get their take on working with the organization. What’s working? What’s not? Often nonprofit organization engage celebrities or spokespeople to serve as the face of their cause. Do you want those celebrities or public figures to be associated with your brand?
Search for recent news items and press coverage about the nonprofit. Conduct a Google news search or consider paid research tools like Factiva or LexisNexis that offer deeper dives into news archives. Some social media tools even provide analysis of brand sentiment–positive, negative or neutral–online. Look for potential red flags or negative terms, like misconduct, unethical behavior, mismanagement, legal proceedings or lawsuits.
First Person Interviews
After reviewing materials online and speaking to other corporate partners or people outside the organization, interview key stakeholders inside the nonprofit. Identify and interview your main point of contact or liaison. Talk to the executive director or board chairperson. Don’t hesitate to ask detailed questions about their expectations of you as a corporate partner and find out how you can make the greatest impact on the cause you are choosing to support.
While vetting nonprofit partners can be time and labor-intensive, the credible information you find will give you the assurances you need to pursue a strategic cause alliance. If preliminary research looks good and you’re serious about moving forward with a nonprofit partner, then you can begin the partnership negotiation process where each side shares confidential information about available assets and plans. Selecting the right partner is not an easy task and For Momentum can provide guidance or can conduct an independent evaluation for you.