Among the assets of Michigan’s nonprofits, the greatest is trust. There is no legal requirement for people and organizations to give to nonprofits. There is no mandate by government for every citizen to serve their community by volunteering at a nonprofit. The only way we can compel anyone to support our organizations is through our ability to demonstrate impact, show effective use of resources, and tell the story of the people we serve. In other words, people give because they trust the organization they give to will be good stewards of their gifts.
During this “giving season” nonprofits across Michigan are reaching out for financial support of their work. This is also a ripe time for less altruistic actors to prey on the good intentions of Michigan’s citizens who want to give. Fraudulent solicitations, misuse of charitable contributions, and ineffective utilization of resources are all threats to trust in nonprofits—threats to our most valuable and hardest to earn asset. As a sector, we have to ensure that we protect the public trust.
MNA is working on several fronts to ensure a high level of trust in the sector. SB 1528 amends the Charitable Organization Solicitation Act (COSA) to increase penalties on bad actors including fraudulent fundraisers. This important piece of legislation is a cornerstone priority of the Michigan Nonprofit Caucus and is currently scheduled to be considered during the Lame Duck Session of the Michigan Legislature.
Nonprofits can help encourage donors to give to their organizations by using the Giving Wisely: Helping Michigan Citizens Be Savvy Donors guide. This guide, available on MNA’s website, helps donors understand the important questions they need to consider when giving their time, talent and treasure to nonprofits. MNA developed Giving Wisely in partnership with the Council of Michigan Foundations, Michigan Association of United Ways, and the Office of Attorney General. Giving Wisely has links to important web resources, provides issues to consider when giving money as well as time to nonprofits, and offers nonprofits the opportunity to demonstrate that they are a good investment.
In a time when seven in ten Americans trust nonprofits more than they trust government or industry to address our community challenges, it is imperative that we live up to those expectations and build our assets–build trust.