One of Seer's goals is to make it as easy as possible for our team to put good into the world.
Part of how I strive to do that as Seer's Community Impact Manager is by collaborating with non-profits based on team interest and the value those non-profits bring to our communities.
Unfortunately, you don’t have to look far to find stories of nonprofits mismanaging funds or weren’t true to their mission.
So for any others out there who are working to set up community impact programs, potential new team members who want to understand if Seer aligns with your values, or even future clients who want to understand where your money goes if you choose Seer as your agency -- here is a breakdown of how we select which organizations we support with our dollars and our time.
Decide What Needs to be Vetted
We vet organizations that we donate over $1,000
In 2022, Seer team members volunteered 5,075 hours at over 145 organizations. (We only started tracking organizations in July; the number is likely higher.)
It would not be an effective use of my time to painstakingly vet each one of these organizations.
As a company, we’ve already set parameters for what “counts” as volunteering, or is eligible to be tracked as volunteering on company time.
Default to Trust, Educate the Team
We trust our team to follow those parameters.
Instead, my focus shifted to in depth vetting for organizations we were planning to partner with through a significant donation of time or money. I defined significant as either a Seer sponsored volunteer event, or a donation greater than $1,000.
Additionally, I would vet organizations at the request of a team member, for example, someone who was looking to make some volunteer connections in a new city.
Seer's Consideration Process
Start With The Basics
Step 1: Determine the status of the organization
- Are they a registered 501c3?
- A grassroots community organization?
- An organization with a fiscal sponsorship?
- A for profit organization committed to doing good?
A visit to an organization’s website should be able to answer this question, but often, it’s not so simple.
Step 2: Search the organization on Guidestar
Guidestar is a website dedicated to having accurate and up to date information about US non profit organizations. Start with searching the org’s name. The name you may be familiar with might not be the legal name. If that’s the case:
- Use filters to narrow results by geographic location
- Do a general Google search to obtain the org’s EIN and then search that in Guidestar
- Register on Guidestar’s site to unlock more profile views and to access 990 forms.
Step 3: Dig Into the Website
Theoretically, every non profit organization should have the following on its website:
- Its mission statement
- Its board members
- Financial transparency
In actuality, it’s not uncommon to find one of these items missing. Still, I like to spend time combing through an organization’s website. I make a point to look at how the organization describes its values. Are services offered to a diversity of individuals? Is anyone excluded? Are services only offered if people buy into a specific set of cultural or religious values?
Similarly, I like to make sure I can understand what the organization is actually doing. An annual report, which should be accessible on the organization’s website, can provide a clear picture of successes and challenges.
Review the 990 Form
Often, a deep review of an organization’s website gives enough information for me to make an informed decision.
However, it’s not uncommon that I want to know about an organization’s finances. Nonprofits are required to file form 990 with the IRS. It’s then made publicly available, either on the IRS website or on a third party site like Guidestar. Use this form to learn:
- A nonprofit’s revenues and expenditures,
- Compensation of board members, trustees, important employees, and the top 5 highest paid employees.
- Operational Budget
- Funding Streams
As we continue towards our goal of contributing $15 million dollars back to our communities by 2032, we may add more criteria into our vetting process.
Currently, Seer reserves higher monetary donations and sponsorships for organizations with which we have a long standing relationship. Our established partnership therefore helps us vet.
However, as we scale our efforts, it may be prudent to use Charity Navigator or Guidestar’s ratings as an official part of our vetting process.
Follow along with our monthly blogs as we commit to giving back $15 million to the community by 2032.
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