Before coming to work for InterVarsity, I reviewed charities for the Better Business Bureau. The BBB has one of the best charity accreditation programs in the country. Charities are asked to submit financial statements, governance documents, and copies of their fundraising materials, and the BBB reviews them against a set of 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
Today, the BBB and a group called Muslim Advocates announced a plan to encourage Muslim charities to undergo the BBB’s accreditation program. Muslim charities have been under a great deal of scrutiny since 9/11 for supposed ties to terrorism, and ethical Muslim charities hope that this new program will encourage donors to trust them with their money. One of the mantras that I repeated while I was at the BBB was that it was nearly impossible for a donor to tell the difference between a “legitimate” charity and an unethical one, and that even the definition of “legitimate” was questionable. For example, the American Red Cross has been involved in a number of ethics scandals, regarding their executives, their handling of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, and their blood donation program. Yet the Red Cross unquestionably does a great deal of good. Are they “legitimate”? Are they “ethical”? This is why the BBB’s standards are so important. The standards provide 20 objective measures of a charity’s practices and policies, so that donors can make their own decision. According to the Wall Street Journal, one of the first charities to volunteer for the program is the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati, which would have been part of my territory.
Way to go, BBB!