Thursday, November 9

Is this what the future will look like?

For fundraising news junkies like myself, the political season was a special treat. Perhaps what makes tracking political fundraising so interesting is the open and transparent listing of who gives what to which groups.

Congressional Quarterly has an extremely well maintained website called Political MoneyLine which presents a searchable electronic database for individuals, PACs, and a wide variety of other fundraising reports. Another site, offer comparisons of individual candidate races. For the last presidential election, FundRace presented an interactive mapping tool to track what your neighbors were giving to which candidates.

Naturally, as a nonprofit fundraiser, I ask myself if all 501(c) 3 and 501(c)4 organizations will some day look like. Will this complete transparency one day be the norm for all of us?

Last month, Ken Goldstein at the Nonprofit Consultant's Blog posted on the topic of donor poaching. He asks readers if they are afraid of posting annual reports out of fear that other charities will use the list to steal other groups donors. And while I have personally worked at organizations that wrestled with this issue... you can't stop the wheels of progress, right?

A new company called NOZA, Inc. claims to have the world's largest searchable database of individual donors - available for only $25 a month. I assume they gather their 16 million records by crawling online donor lists. Is this the future?

It makes me think of a number of stories about politicians that maintain extremely close ties to charities which attempt to hide their donor lists. This blog wrote about one such group tied to former Senator Rick Santorum. I was also curious about a story on a group in San Francisco tied to the Mayor which initially refused to publish a list of its donors, but eventually published its donor list under growing public pressure.

Surely part of the intent of the IRS Form 990 was to shine a light on donor transparency. But there are ways to hide. In my earlier days I even used to write about whether donors had the right to be anonymous. Would it make donors less likely to donate? What do you think?

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