Trust, Transparency Critical in Philanthropic Quest
By Margaret May Damen, CFP, CLU, ChFC
NABBW’s Philanthropy Expert

Country music diva, Kathy Mattea’s lyrics, “Standin’ knee deep in a river and dyin’ of thirst,” could well apply to the quagmire many people get into when they start their philanthropic quest.

According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics (NCCS) there are more than 1.5 million not for-profit organizations in the United States. How does a caring and motivated person whose values are aligned with the causes they wish to impact chose the organizations to support with their time, talent and treasure? Evaluation agencies such as Guidestar and Charity Navigator efficiently rate the fiscal strength and governance stability of an organization.

But how does one learn about the culture of the organization – its unique internal spirit? Is it vibrant, transparent, and respectful of volunteers, staff donors and the population their mission serves? Do the programs and services have the impact and get results that are in sync with the donor’s intentions?

Many of the women my co-author and I interviewed for our book “Women, Wealth and Giving,” cited trust and transparency as two critical elements they look for in the organizations they support. They believe transparency builds trust and is the “tie-that binds” the ethics and integrity of an organization’s culture.

Transparency opens communication and creates a safe environment for donors to share ideas as well as financial resources. Trust can inspire more creative solutions for problems when shared ideas lead to looking at things in a fresh new way.

Transparency is part of honoring and living by the Donor Bill of Rights, a document to assure that philanthropy merits the trust and respect of the general public. And one sure way to quench a donor’s thirst for trust and transparency is to invest time in asking serious questions, make frequent visits to the organization as well as the beneficiaries of the organization’s mission, and get involved as a volunteer.

Remember, your donation is an investment in the future of the organization, its mission and the community. Transparency and trust set the stage for an energetic and diverse community and keep you from “Standin’ knee deep in a river and dyin’ of thirst.”

Margaret May Damen is Founder of the Institute For Women and Wealth in Lake Worth, Florida, which provides a forum for women to recognize and fulfill their abundant wealth legacy of values and valuables. She is the Planned Giving Consultant to the Kravis Center of the Performing Arts, West Palm Beach, Florida; a strategic leadership consultant for the United Way of Martin County Foundation, Stuart, Florida and serves as a member of the Executive Committee of the National Board of the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning, Indianapolis IN. She is a frequent keynote speaker and workshop leader on topics of money, wealth, and women\’s legacy. As a recognized thought-leader and change maker, she has presented papers at the national conferences of the Partnership for Philanthropic Planning, the International Association of Professional Fundraisers and the Association of Healthcare Philanthropic Professionals. Margaret is a member of the Sigma Alpha Iota National Music Fraternity and a classical flutist. She is co-author of “Women, Wealth and Giving: The Virtuous Legacy of the Boom Generation.”
Learn more about Margaret May on her website,, where this article was originally published. To download your copy of The 10 Steps to Being a Virtuous Philanthropist visit her web site If you have questions about how to begin your philanthropic role, send her an email at . Previously published at Carpe Diem! The Philanthropic Muse