The basic information you make available should be guided by the standards of the Initiative for a Transparent Civil Society. This initiative is a voluntary self-regulatory initiative active in germany. Yet, its standards are minimum standards that can be adapted by any nonprofit, regardless where it is based at. The Initiative for a Transparent Civil Society defines ten criteria to be communicated transparently on a nonprofit's website:
- Name, place of business, address and founding year
- Full bylaws, as well as the vision, mission statement and objectives of the organization
- Information regarding tax benefits
- Name, function, contact data of key decision-makers, including an organizational chart
- Annual report/report on activities
- Information on funding sources
- Information on staff structure, especially regarding the number and composition of full-time employees and volunteers, freelancers, etc.
- Information on expenditures broken down by project, with multiyear comparisons possible
- Corporate affiliations with third parties
- If yearly payments to any legal entities make up more than 10% of the complete annual budget, names of these entities
Of course, it’s best that you provide additional information as well:
Who are you, and what do you want?
- Name, address, year of foundation, important contacts with names and contact data
- Accurate imprint
- Bylaws (as PDF, or even better, as text on the website)
- Information on non-profit status (for example, through exemption certificate)
- Organizational objectives, including vision or mission statement
- Who does what, when and where?
Who is an expert in what, and how is the team constituted?
- Organizational chart with task distribution and responsibilities
- Leadership and supervisory structures with functions
- Overview of employees, particularly in terms of number and composition of full-time and volunteer status, freelancers, etc.
- Relationships to other organizations (memberships, participation, ongoing cooperations; for example, in the form of a list of links)
What do you spend your money on?
More than anything else, funding bodies want to know how resources are being employed. It is thus absolutely necessary to list income sources and the purposes of expenditures in an easily understood manner – such as in an annual financial statement or by using a cash-based accounting statement (depending on the size of the organization).
It is also helpful to make comparisons possible, for example, by offering financial statements from previous years.
How effectively do you operate?
In addition to formal transparency criteria that enable an overview of your organization’s work processes and performance, your results also play a role:
- What do you want to achieve (objectives)?
- What activities does your organization engage in, or what services do you offer and why?
- What results do you achieve in consequence? Who have you reached, and what have you been able to change?
- How do you know what effect you’re having? What data-collection methods do you use?
This can involve publishing quotes or participant feedback, for example. It is important that the evidence used to demonstrate your results is current!