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When a nonprofit gets caught in the act of lying about donations, it doesn’t benefit any of us. You may have seen in the news just a few weeks ago that the Federal Trade Commission announced that four cancer charities (all connected to the same family) received $187 million over a four-year period and used almost none of it to actually assist cancer patients. There was lying. There was gross nepotism. And there were generous people, who thought they were donating to organizations that helped victims of cancer, getting completely ripped off.

Heartbreaking.

So what can you — a leader who wants to make real change in the world — learn from an extreme and sickening case like this?

3 Lessons Your Nonprofit Can Learn from the Cancer Fund of America Scandal
  1. Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Cases like this hurt all of us and serve as a poignant reminder that trust is built when donors have a real understanding of where dollars go. Share details. Be thorough. Don’t leave out anything that may be misunderstood as dishonest.
  1. Develop systems and processes that support transparency. Keeping in consistent communication with your donors can be challenging in an understaffed nonprofit, but being transparent with donors is of paramount importance. Use tools that simplify the process and help keep donors in the loop on the very real impact their dollars are making in your organization.
  1. Tell stories to put a face on impact. Beyond detailed annual reports and text heavy updates, every so often use video to show how your organization is using donations to change the world. Periscope, the new Twitter-based social media platform, lets you share videos and get feedback in real time. Explore video options on Periscope, YouTube and Facebook to make an impact that hits home for donors.

When nonprofit leaders turn out to be crooks, it can have a negative impact on all of us. Let this be a reminder to share with your donors how their donations are making a lasting impact.

How do you make sure your donors feel confident about where their dollars are going when they donate to your organization?