Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Rx for Public Trust: A Parrot in Every Charity

It gets under my skin to hear the leader of a nonprofit say its finances are private. That was the response of some of the six religious nonprofits that have stonewalled the U.S. Senate Finance Committee that has been working under both Republican and Democratic leadership to weed out and prevent charity abuse.

One of my favorite quotes is from humorist Will Rogers, who advised people to “live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip.” That’s good advice for charities too. In fact, Will could go one further by advising them to “make your parrot available to everyone.”

Why? For starters, most charities depend on contributions by people who don’t directly benefit from their programs. That calls for a huge amount of trust that the charities people give to are doing something noble, positive and helpful with their donations. By letting their “parrots” go public, charities are demonstrating that they have nothing to hide, and in fact have a lot to show for people’s contributions.

Public trust takes a hit every time we hear of nonprofits operating in secrecy. One has to wonder what their parrots have to say.

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