There is a rise of ‘proactive philanthropy’ - where donors and grant makers seek out the organisations they want to fund (see my blog). For charities and other voluntary sector organisations this means that rather than having the control of presenting yourself in an application form, you could be externally reviewed at any time. When did you last make sure that your public-facing, digital-self is in order in case a potential donor or funder is checking you out? Here are my top tips for being ready:
Check your Charity Commission details
Make sure your Charity Commission and Companies House pages show that you are up to date with your reporting. Having the red text that says you submitted your accounts late will be a red flag – it suggests that you are not well organised or that you may not be reliable when reporting back on any grant. On the Charity Commission page, I have noticed lately that several charities have had their accounts marked as ‘qualified’ when they are not, so do check your entry and contact the Charity Commission if they have got that wrong.
Use your annual report to tell your whole story
Use your annual report and accounts for more than just the legal basics. Think about a funder being a potential reader and make sure you acknowledge your donors. Use the narrative section to explain anything odd or unusual or problematic in your accounts; include details of the difference you make, and include your future plans.
Don’t forget the basics on your website
This is often the first point of contact and is your chance to show what it is you do, how you work and the impact your work has. Even when I am actively searching for organisations to back, I can struggle to work out exactly what it is that an organisation does. Imagine what that could mean to a hurried donor coming to you in a flush of motivation? You don’t need to have a fancy Theory of Change or animation, just a simple statement somewhere that says ‘this is what we do and why it matters’. Consider having a short summary document for funders and donors – though you will need to keep it up to date. Also helpful is having details of your Trustees and Senior Managers, easy access to your latest annual report and any strategy document, details of your outcomes and impact. If you can, have case studies and films that bring your work to life. And make sure it is easy to make a donation or contact you.
Does Google contradict you?
Google yourself. What comes up when you run a general search on your organisation. It might be all positive, but is there anything else: a complaint, a threat of closure story, bad reviews on glassdoor? If so (and depending how recent and accurate it is), is there anything you can do to tackle this head on and explain how it has been dealt with?
Take the donor perspective
Without wanting to add another task to your long list, I recommend that you imagine being a potential donor or funder and look again at your digital presence through fresh eyes. Spending time making sure your information is current and clear could get you selected by a proactive philanthropist.