Jerusalem Post Calls for NGO Transparency

from an editorial in today’s The Jerusalem Post:

PR101 for Charities

A few days ago, for the first time ever, the Ministry of Welfare and Social Services made public the amount of shekels it contributes to Israel’s third sector.

While the announcement of the NIS 1.5 billion its spends on outsourcing projects to local non-profits was not newsworthy enough to make big headlines, the willingness of a government office to share information on the charity industry was a welcome change for a sector that is growing increasingly secretive about its inner workings.

In an attempt to encourage local media to publish this data, ministry officials pointed out that non-profits are very quick to cry poverty and bemoan a drop in their fund-raising but often very slow to acknowledge those who do support their activities.

Among the organizations listed as receiving large sums from the government for various social welfare projects were the Women’s International Zionist Organization (WIZO); the Israeli Society for Autistic Children, Alut; Emunah, the national-religious women’s organization; and Akim, the association for the rehabilitation of the mentally handicapped.

… Over the past year it has become increasingly clear that many non-profits – both big and small – are struggling financially due to the economic crisis. It is no secret either that all types of charities are being forced to make difficult choices about the scope of their programming and being pushed into making structural changes to their projects and long-term goals.

While full disclosure about charities’ heartwarming activities is obviously beneficial, so too is transparency and full disclosure, and not just messages of woe and pleas for help, about fund-raising.

While not wanting to admit that your organization is hurting financially is understandable, for fear of undermining confidence and out of concern that your backers will jump ship, contrastingly “public relations 101” dictates that openness is crucial in order to keep your supporters… supportive. Cutbacks and new directions taken by non-profit organizations should be thoroughly discussed with donors, and openly detailed in the press. The truth will out, and far better that it be the accurate account that the organization can disseminate rather than partial and distorted revelation via the online rumor mill.