Jen: This is the PKF Texas Entrepreneur’s Playbook. I’m Jen Lemanski, and I’m back again with Annjeanette Yglesias, one of our tax managers and a member of the PKF Texas Not-for-Profit team. Annjeanette, welcome back to the Playbook.

Annjeanette: Hey, Jen. It’s nice to be here.

Jen: So, I’ve heard about this thing called a Donor Bill of Rights. Can you tell me what that is, and what people need to know about it?

Annjeanette: Sure. The Donor Bill of Rights was created by the Association of Fund Raising Professionals about 25 years ago. Basically, it’s a blueprint – a set of best practices that organizations can use to maintain their donor relationships.

Jen: So, what are some key things that are in the Donor Bill of Rights?

Annjeanette: The Donor Bill of Rights actually is made up of 10 tenants, so to speak, and they all center around transparency. For example, the Donor Bill of Rights states that donors have the right to know who the organization’s leadership is and have access to them to ask any questions that they would like and also receive prompt, transparent responses from those in leadership positions. Also, the Donor Bill of Rights states that donors have the right to know their resources are being used.

Jen: That’s key.

Annjeanette: Exactly – to fund the mission and also that donors have a right to see financial information. Some of that financial information is already made available to the public via Form 1099, the annual tax filing that a nonprofit organization would have out there anyway, but also with other financial information. So really the Donor Bill of Rights centers around transparency and around what the nonprofit organizations – what kind of information they should be giving their donors to give them confidence that their funds are being stewarded properly.

Jen: Well, it sounds like this is something that pretty much all not-for-profits should adhere to.

Annjeanette: Right. It’s definitely – the Bill of Rights is definitely something that every organization should consider. However, it should be noted that the Donor Bill of Rights is not an enforceable set of rules.

Jen: It’s not like a legal requirement.

Annjeanette: Exactly. There’s no regulatory agency out there making sure that all nonprofits adhere to it. But each organization should definitely consider what the tenants are and should implement it in its own way. Organizations have to consider their tradable mission, their resources and especially their donor base in considering what facets of the Bill of Rights they want to embrace.

Jen: That makes a lot of sense. Well, great. We’ll get you back to talk about some more not-for-profit topics soon.

Annjeanette: That sounds good.

Jen: To learn more about how PKF Texas can help your not-for-profit organization, visit PKFTexas.com/notforprofit. This has been another Thought Leader production brought to you by PKF Texas The Entrepreneur’s Playbook. Tune in next week for another chapter.

The Donor Bill of Rights was designed about 25 years ago as a blueprint of best practices for not-for-profits. Some critics have since asserted that the rights are out of date or not comprehensive enough. However, revisiting the list’s basic principles can help you build solid relationships with donors — and even boost fundraising.

Here are the 10 rights and what they might mean for your not-for-profit:

1. To be informed of the organization’s mission, how it intends to use donated resources and its capacity to use donations effectively for their intended purposes. This information is the bedrock of your outreach efforts and should be clear to your board, staff and anyone reading your organization’s materials.

2. To be informed of who’s serving on the organization’s governing board, and to expect the board to exercise prudent judgment in its stewardship responsibilities. You must be transparent about who serves on your board, their responsibilities and the decisions they’re making.

3. To have access to the organization’s most recent financial statements. Make your nonprofit’s financial data easily accessible to constituents, potential donors and charitable watchdog groups.

4. To be assured gifts will be used for the purposes for which they were given. Donors expect that you’ll minimize administrative expenses so their funds are available for programming and that you’ll honor any restrictions they’ve placed on gifts.

5. To receive appropriate acknowledgment and recognition. In addition to thanking donors, provide them with the substantiation required for a federal tax deduction and information about the charitable deduction rules and limits.

6. To be assured that donation information is handled with respect and confidentiality to the extent provided by law. Post your organization’s privacy policy on your website and be clear about what information you’re gathering about donors and how that information will be used.

7. To expect that relationships between individuals representing organizations and donors will be professional. Staff and board members should be trained in proper donor interaction — both off- and online.

8. To be informed whether fundraisers are volunteers, employees of the organization or hired solicitors. Again, transparency about your operations is critical.

9. To have the opportunity for donors’ names to be deleted from mailing lists that an organization may intend to share. Donors, not your nonprofit, get to decide whether their information can be shared. Make it easy for donors to opt out of email and other lists.

10. To feel free to ask questions and receive prompt, truthful and forthright answers. Open dialogue between your nonprofit and your donors fosters respect and deepens relationships.

Contact us for help implementing these 10 tenets or developing a customized donor bill of rights.