Charitable giving has changed over the last decade, and the Charities Review Council wants to change with the times.
When the council adopted its current standards in 1998, online giving was "nowhere what it is today, if it existed at all," said Helen Ng, the council's marketing and communications manager.
So next week, the council will roll out more than 25 proposed changes to its accountability standards that charities strive to meet. Donors can use the reviews of 400 charities that are posted on the council's website, SmartGivers.org, to decide where to put their money. The idea is to make what charities do more transparent, Ng said.
For example, one of the more notable changes being proposed would increase the allowable percentage of funds to be spent on administrative and fundraising costs. The current standard requires that at least 70 percent of the nonprofit's expenses be spent on the program.
But under a proposed change, program expenses could drop into a 60 to 70 percent range. A key part of that change, however, is that the nonprofit would have to explain why its program expense ratios fall in that range.
"In order for a nonprofit to thrive, to fulfill its mission in the long term and build a solid foundation, it's important they have certain systems in place. ... For example, a system to protect donor privacy and security. ... And those systems, unfortunately are not free," Ng said.
Likewise, nonprofits would have to explain why their program expenses fall within the 90 to 100 percent range.
A nonprofit run totally by volunteers may not have any other expenses, Ng said. Or, it could be that a nonprofit isn't investing in itself, she said.
"For nonprofits that depend on public donors and for donors who support them, they owe an explanation to their donors in everything they do," Ng said.
The council will detail the proposed standard changes during the council's annual forum from noon to 1 p.m. June 17 at the Midland Hills Country Club in Roseville. Tickets are $50. To register or for more information, call 651-224-7030 or go to www.SmartGivers.org/AnnualForum2009.
The council also will outline the proposed changes and take the public's comments during town hall meetings that will be held around the state through early fall. Comments also can be left on the council's website.
The council expects to vote on the changes Oct. 8. The new and amended standards will then be phased in next year.
Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788