Q. Why did the Tri-State BBB decide to have a seal program?
A. The original program was developed by the BBB Wise Giving Alliance.The goal of the Alliance 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. A detailed donor expectations survey of 2,003 Americans commissioned by the Alliance in the spring of 2001 found that 70% of adult Americans said it was difficult to tell whether a charity soliciting their contribution is legitimate. Public attention on charity accountability has grown in recent years, particularly in the wake of September 11th 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. Moreover, there have been numerous requests from charities over the years to be able to advise donors that they meet our standards.
Q. Until now charities couldn't tell donors that they met BBB charity standards?
A. That's correct. Local and national charities that meet BBB Wise Giving Alliance Charity Standards have never been permitted to state this fact in their materials or use the BBB name, due to long-standing policy precluding use of the BBB name by outside organizations. For reasons cited above, the Boards of the Alliance and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (which owns the BBB name) approved a policy change that enables BBBs to introduce a seal for local charities. The seal is offered as a voluntary option for those organizations that the BBB has determined meet the BBB-WGA standards.
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 BBB Wise Giving Alliance. Charities that qualify for the seal will be able to display the seal in printed solicitation materials, in advertisements, on their web sites and in other approved venues. Furthermore, the seal will help to extend public awareness of the Alliance'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 BBB) 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 charities that apply for participation
in the seal program will pay an annual fee. The fee schedule for the Tri-State BBB is $250 annually regardless of the charity size. Fees vary from BBB to BBB.
Q. Which charities are eligible to display the seal?
A. Publicly soliciting charities that are at least two years old and meet all of the applicable Standards for Charity Accountability are eligible to apply for the seal. Currently, the BBB reports on those charities that 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 looks beyond "the numbers" while many other charity watchdogs confine their reports and conclusions solely to the charity's finances. The BBB evaluates the charity's governance, fund raising practices, solicitations and informational materials, as well as how it spends its money. Therefore, compliance with this seal will send a more complete confirmation of the charity's accountability.
Q. How are charities be 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, web sites and television public service announcements. The web site seal will feature a "click to check" function that provides a direct hyperlink to the BBB report on the organization.
Q. Will the BBB continue to report on charities that do not apply for the seal and/or do not meet standards?
A. Yes, the BBB will continue to produce reports on
those charities that are the subject of recent inquiries regardless of
whether the subject charity intends to apply for the seal. Reports on both those charities that meet and those organizations that do not meet standards
are freely accessible on the website.
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 Alliance to complete an evaluation in relation to standards including: audited financial statements, IRS Form 990, bylaws, articles of incorporation, direct mail appeals, brochures, budgets, board rosters, and tax exempt status determination letters.
Charity evaluations are in effect for 24 months. However, they could be amended at any time based on new information or a change in charity practice. The BBB staff will routinely monitor seal holder organizations for adherence to seal program requirements. In addition, the BBB will also conduct Internet monitoring for unauthorized use of the seal online. Further, the BBB will promptly investigate and act on any donor and/or charity complaints related to seal usage.
If a charity participating in the seal program is found to no longer meet the standards, the subject organization would be required to remove the seal from their website and to cease distribution of any printed materials that displayed the seal logo. The BBB also would alert the public to any seal abuses through prominent website notices, press releases and other information channels.