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Better to Give

A new website helps give would-be donors information on local charities.

Kent Anderson December 5th, 2012

Philanthropy is often driven by emotions: The donor has a desire to improve the community, but savvy givers want to know more than just the bumper-sticker summary of an organization’s mission.

“The days of people writing checks to nonprofits, simply because it’s a good thing to do, are not as strong as they once were,” said Cathy Nestlen, director of communications for the Oklahoma City Community Foundation (OCCF). “People want to know if their dollars are making an impact, and that those dollars are being treated well.”

The website GiveSmartOKC. org, introduced by OCCF earlier this year, is a comprehensive resource to link potential donors to nonprofits in an eight-county area. The project grew from the organization’s desire to “open up its filing cabinets and share information with people,” according to OCCF President Nancy Anthony.

Share they did. The foundation contacted GuideStar, a national database for nonprofits, which had recently introduced a web-based platform linking potential donors with suitable organizations. OCCF joins major markets such as Boston, San Diego and Pittsburgh in implementing the concept. When the website went live in July, it featured a handful of local nonprofits. Today 126 agencies are represented, with 50 more still in the works.

Each organization provides OCCF its background information, such as financial reports, board organization, program details; OCCF staff then works with each group in creating the heart of its listing: the profile.

“We ask the organizations to tell us about themselves,” Anthony said. “Tell us about your program. Tell us about how effective your efforts are, how many people attend your performances, how many people access your services.

It gives everyone a chance to not only be accountable, but to brag a little bit.”

Among those local groups is Canterbury Choral Society.

“Going through the process of creating our profile provided an excellent checks-and-balances system for all of our information, especially financial,” said Kay Holt, Canterbury Choral’s executive director.

“I think one of the unexpected outcomes of working through one’s profile creation is that you more closely and objectively look at yourself as an organization in all its details.” offers a highly refined search process, allowing donors to sort by keywords, focus areas — even by ZIP code — to make “apples-to-apples” comparisons of similar organizations. Feedback thus far has been positive, with donors citing the ease of use and the depth of information available.

“For us, GiveSmartOKC is a great platform to communicate our commitment to financial transparency and good stewardship to our existing and potential supporters,” said Rick Denny, Jesus House executive director.

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12.05.2012 at 09:26 Reply

The charity business generates incredible amounts of revenue.  The investment income on those donations can arguably be kept by the charity (one of those gray areas of IRS tax rules)  If a foundation, like OCCF chooses to keep funds, as they did donations to those affected by the OKC bombing for a period of, say for instance, 17 1/2 years - they're going to make a lot of money.  Nearly half a million in 2005, as a matter of fact.