Questions and Answers about the Seal
Q. Why did the local Better Business Bureau decide to develop a seal program?
A. The goal of the local BBB seal program is to offer a highly visible accountability tool that will help inform donors, will assist charities in establishing their commitment to ethical practices, and will encourage greater confidence in giving. Many, if not most, Americans have trouble finding the information they need to evaluate charities and make decisions about giving. Donor inquiries to the BBB as well as donor expectation surveys commissioned by the Wise Giving Alliance indicate that a majority of Americans find it difficult to tell whether a charity soliciting their contributions is legitimate. Public attention on charity accountability has grown in recent years, particularly in the wake of charity appeals associated with recent natural disasters and a series of high profile charity scandals. In turn, charities themselves are seeking credible means to ensure donors that they operate ethically and in accordance with donor intentions.
Q. Why are there two versions of the seal?
A. Each BBB has the opportunity to offer the same seal to their local charities. The set of standards under which each BBB conducts a review are the same, as is the seal. The primary difference is a geographical indicator noted by the website address near the bottom of the seal. In our case, the local seal for the BBB serving Louisville, Western Kentucky, and Southern Indiana is available to local charities that solicit funds from the public. Seals with the give.org website indicate that those charities have been reviewed by the Wise Giving Alliance (WGA), the national charity review program of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. After the launch of the national seal program, it became available to the national network of local Better Business Bureaus. Seals on the www.louisville.bbb.org website indicate that those charities have been reviewed by the local Bureau.
Q. Until now charities couldn't tell donors that they met BBB charity standards?
A. That's correct. Because of a long-standing policy precluding use of the BBB name by outside organizations, charities that meet the BBB charity standards have not been permitted to state this fact in their materials or to use the Better Business Bureau name. The seal is offered as a voluntary option for organizations that have been reviewed and that meet all standards for charitable accountability.
Q. How will a seal assist donors?
A. The seal provides a clear, concise and accessible means for potential donors to find out if a charity meets the comprehensive standards established by the WGA. Charities that qualify for the seal will be able to display the seal in printed solicitation materials, in advertisements, on their websites and in other approved venues. Furthermore, the seal will help to extend public awareness of the local BBB’s work in charity accountability.
Q. How will a seal assist charities?
A. The seal provides charities with a widely recognized (surveys have shown that 98% of the public is familiar with the Better Business Bureau name) and meaningful mechanism by which to demonstrate their commitment to accountability and ethical practices. Display of the seal instantly conveys to the donor the charity’s adherence to strong and comprehensive standards.
Q. How will the seal program be funded?
A. Qualified local charities that apply for participation in the seal program will pay an annual fee. The fee schedule is a sliding scale based on the total amount of the charity's contribution revenues in the past year. The fee amount ranges from $50 for a charity with $200,000 or less in revenues to a maximum of $1,000 for a charity with revenues totaling $20 million or more.
Q. Which charities are eligible to display the seal?
A. Publicly soliciting charities that have been reviewed by the local BBB Charity Review Service and meet BBB Standards for Charity Accountability are eligible to apply for the seal. The BBB routinely reports on area charities that request to be reviewed or have been subject of recent public inquiries. However, if a charity has not yet been evaluated and is interested in applying for the seal program, the BBB will complete the requisite evaluation in relation to standards.
Q. How does the seal differ from other charity watchdog reporting efforts?
A. The BBB Charity Review Service looks beyond "the numbers" while other charity watchdogs confine their reports and conclusions solely to the charity's finances. BBB reports include a determination of compliance with standards along with a summary of the charity’s mission, programs, governance, finances, and solicitation practices. Therefore, compliance with charity seal requirements sends a more complete confirmation of a charity's accountability.
Q. How are charities permitted to use the seal?
A. Permissible uses of the seal will include the charity's direct mail appeals, annual report, posters, newspaper and magazine advertisements, billboards, websites and television public service announcements. The website seal features a "click to check" function that provides a direct hyperlink to the local BBB’s report on the organization.
Q. Will the local BBB continue to report on area charities that do not apply for the seal and/or do not meet standards?
A. Yes, the local BBB will continue to produce reports on those area charities that are the subject of recent inquiries regardless of whether the subject charity intends to apply for the seal. Reports on those charities that meet and those organizations that do not meet standards are freely accessible at www.louisville.bbb.org
Q. How will the BBB monitor the seal and address seal abuses?
A. As with all charity reviews completed by the BBB, participating charities will be required to submit a variety of support documents and related information in order for the BBB to complete an evaluation in relation to standards including audited financial statements, IRS Form 990s, by-laws, articles of incorporation, direct mail appeals, brochures, budgets, board rosters and tax exempt status determination letters. Charity evaluations are in effect for 2 years. However, they could be amended at any time based on new information or a change in a charity’s operations or programs. BBB staff monitor seal holder organizations for adherence to seal program requirements will promptly investigate and act on any donor and/or charity inquiries or complaints related to seal usage. If a charity participating in the seal program is found to no longer meet the standards, the charity would be required to remove the seal from their website and to cease distribution of any printed materials that displayed the seal logo.
For additional information or to apply for charity seal membership, contact Joe Spalding, Director of Charity Review, at (502) 588-0033 or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.