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How Interested Parties Learn About Your Non-Profit Organization and How to React

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Individuals looking to learn more about your non-profit organization have a wealth of information at their fingertips thanks to the many resources available to them on the Internet.  In today’s competitive environment, it is important for leadership to view these resources as opportunities to generate interest from those who seek out information and invest the time necessary to produce comprehensive materials that will help them tell their story.  It is also important for your organization’s leadership to understand where and how information is made available.  With that knowledge, a comprehensive approach to addressing each one of these resources can be developed to ensure the message conveyed through them is positive and thorough.

Nonprofit Resources

Below are a few resources that can be accessed by the general public and provide details of your organization’s standing and compliance with filing requirements:

  • The IRS website and GuideStar. These sites provide visitors with an opportunity to review the exempt status of your organization and determine whether or not it is in good standing.
  • Secretary of State, Attorney General or other agencies that monitors charities at the state level. Many websites for these state agencies include a searchable database of registered non-profit organization filings, formation documents, by-laws, etc.  For example, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s charities database includes copies of federal and state filings as well as the audited or reviewed financial statements (for larger organizations).

Because your exempt status and federal and state filings can be reviewed by the general public, it is important that you remain up-to-date and in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.  Further, these filings should be viewed by the leadership within your organization as a marketing tool where accomplishments can be celebrated and where you can clearly demonstrate that the mission has been put into action.  Take the time to review these documents thoroughly with the board before they are filed and ensure everyone understands how easily accessible they are to potential donors, grant makers and others who want to learn more about the organization.

In addition to the above resources, those desiring to gain further knowledge about your organization will likely review the following:

  • The organization’s website. Your website should provide a great level of detail on the organizations mission, programs, fundraising initiatives, board of directors, etc.  In addition, it should also include testimonials and stories about those who have been positively impacted by the work of the organization.
  • Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.  Social media has become an important way for organizations to communicate what’s happening in real time.  While organizations should be cautious with their use of social media, responsible use can produce extremely positive results as a great message will be spread very quickly.
  • Search engine results.  Often, the best way to learn about an organization is simply to “Google” it.  Search engines are a great tool for interested parties to see how your organization is connected to others, what people are saying about the organization and review the services you provide or causes you support.

With knowledge of the fact that people are using these resources to learn more about your organization, it is important to keep them up-to-date and to continuously prepare new content.  Having old and outdated information about your organization available to interested parties could result in them concluding that your mission and activities are also old and outdated.  Set roles and responsibilities within your organization for maintaining the website and social media accounts and know what your competition is doing so you can stay on the cutting edge.

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