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VolunteerMatch and the BBB's Wise Giving Alliance

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA

When FASB issued Accounting Standards Update 2016-14, Presentation of Financial Statements for Not-for-Profit Entities (Topic 958), it stated that prior standards “could be improved to provide more useful information to donors, grantors, creditors, and other users of financial statements.” While not specifically identified by FASB, “other users” could include potential volunteers and community partners, as well as accountants and other professional advisors. These interested parties not only want to identify charitable opportunities, but also want to ensure that they align with individual or organization goals, as well as meet standards of quality and transparency. Two websites that cover multiple aspects of volunteer/nonprofit organizations, especially beyond financial statements and tax forms, are VolunteerMatch and the BBB's Wise Giving Alliance.


VolunteerMatch (http://www.volunteermatch.org) is a portal that connects potential volunteers with nonprofit organizations. Individuals and entities seeking volunteer opportunities can search in their area or by causes, appropriate age groups, and other keywords. Nonprofits can promote their volunteer needs and connect with individuals and companies, as well as obtain advice from VolunteerMatch staff. Commercial resources include volunteer program management software, customizable web pages, and an annual best practices seminar for corporations and nonprofits.

Individuals looking for volunteer opportunities will appreciate the options to customize their search and focus on specific activities and locations. The write-up for each organization provides an overview of its history and purpose, the skills needed, time requirements, and a map. CPAs looking for skills-based opportunities will find an abundance of accounting and board leadership needs. Access to nonprofits' financial information is only available for organizations that have paid for a premium membership, is linked through Network for Good via a donation button, and is powered by GuideStar. An example for Community Service Society of New York can be found at http://bit.ly/2nb35RB.

Nonprofit organizations can join VolunteerMatch for free at https://www.volunteermatch.org/nonprofits/ and have access to basic recruiting tools and tracking and reporting. Additional services are provided with a subscription membership. The Learning Center (http://learn.volunteermatch.org/) offers free access to upcoming webinars, categorized as introductory, core, and advanced. Short Tools Training Videos (http://bit.ly/2m1hFLI) are available to help with using the website's nonprofit resources and include managing email contacts and accessing the photo manager.

VolunteerMatch also hosts an informative blog for nonprofits called Engaging Volunteers (http://bit.ly/2nFqKGa) that includes access to weekly articles, free webinars, and infographics. “4 Ways to Tell You're Asking Too Much of Volunteers” is a recent post that identifies four signs of volunteer burnout, how to continue to engage weary volunteers, and how to avoid overworking them. Users can view a 55-minute video on, as well as download, the 2017 “Volunteer Management Progress Report,” which summarizes a survey of over 1,000 volunteer administrators from 19 countries, representing a wide variety of causes (http://bit.ly/2m1jrfJ). The study presents numerous demographic statistics of organizations and their managers and also addresses their biggest challengers. Both volunteer managers and CPAs who consult with volunteer organizations will find this report very useful.

For companies looking for a more formal way to expand their corporate social responsibility outreach, VolunteerMatch offers a commercial service with access to a U.S.-wide network of over 100,000 volunteer opportunities, volunteer management, and sponsorships at http://solutions.volunteermatch.org/. VolunteerMatch offers several free resources at http://solutions.volunteermatch.org/resources, such as “5 Steps to Building a Successful Employee Volunteer Program,” a downloadable two-page document that begins with building the organization's leadership team for the volunteer outreach. “Are Your CSR Goals Aligned with Your Hiring Practices?” is a 55-minute webinar that provides background information on the VolunteerMatch Network and discusses ways that employers can bridge the gap between potential employees and the positions that companies need to fill, as well as diversity recruitment, employee engagement and retention, and other related issues.

The Volunteering Is CSR blog (http://bit.ly/2nFrYl4) posts new articles approximately every week, such as “Why Your Employees Aren't Using Their Allotted Volunteer Hours” (January 2017). This article covers four reasons for this phenomenon, such as lack of awareness, not understanding the importance of volunteering, work deadlines and other constraints, and lack of recognition. Suggestions for enabling employees to volunteer on their own time include allowing flextime and setting attainable goals.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance (http://www.give.org) offers easy access to background and financial information on charitable organizations. Its value may be considered primarily from a charitable contribution aspect, but individual volunteers and corporate partners are also generally interested in whether an organization is a good steward of resources. CPAs may find the BBB's resources useful from the perspective of gathering information on potential nonprofit clients.

The BBB Wise Giving Alliance evaluates national charities against its own 20 “Standards for Charity Accountability,” which can be found at http://go.bbb.org/2nFuAzj. The standards are divided into four categories: governance and oversight, measuring effectiveness, finances, and fund raising and informational materials. Under finances, for example, the BBB's guidelines include that at least 65% of total expenses should be spent on program activities and no more than 35% on fundraising, the charity's unrestricted net assets should not be more than three times expenses, and financial statements should be prepared in accordance with GAAP and, for larger organizations, should be audited. Charities are evaluated on whether they meet the standard, do not meet the standard, or are unable to have their compliance verified. Note that “unrestricted net assets” is a term FASB has identified as subject to particular misunderstanding.

The BBB's national charity reports can be located via an alphabetic index or a keyword search (http://go.bbb.org/2nobuSf). The results are presented in webpage format with an available print window and are updated every two years. In addition to evaluation of the BBB's 20 standards, summaries are provided for each organization's purpose, programs, governance and staff, fund raising methods, tax status, and income and expenses. Approximately half of the local BBB offices also provide reports on regional charities; links can be found at http://go.bbb.org/2nt9qFm.

For the donation minded, the BBB has several useful tools in addition to the charity reports to help identify and consider options. The “Wise Giving Guide” (http://go.bbb.org/2nt2b09) is produced every few months and addresses special topics in charitable giving, such as “The Sum of Our Parts: Collaboration in the Charitable Sector,” which covers partnerships between charities, other organizations, and donors (http://go.bbb.org/2n0tW22). This booklet presents some ideas worth considering for company managers who are looking to identify a good cause for corporate involvement. The “2013 Donor Handbook” (http://go.bbb.org/2mtfwDN) presents a variety of information, including the top five BBB charity review findings. Of the national charities analyzed by the BBB, only 39% met all of the BBB's standards, and 31% did not disclose requested information, such as access to their Form 990 (where required).

Charting Impact is a partnership formed by the BBB, GuideStar, and Independent Sector, with the mission of helping charities identify their accomplishments and helping potential stakeholders distinguish causes that align with their own goals. The reports are now housed on GuideStar's website (http://www.guidestar.org).

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA is the Louis J. and Ramona Rodriguez Distinguished Professor of Accounting at Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Tex. She is a member of The CPA Journal Editorial Board.

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