Ken Goldstein, MPPA

Ken Goldstein has been working in nonprofits and local government agencies from Santa Cruz, to Sacramento, and back to Silicon Valley, since 1989. He's been staff, volunteer, board member, executive director, and, since 2003, a consultant to local nonprofit organizations. For more on Ken's background, click here. If you are interested in retaining Ken's services, you may contact him at ken at

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Posting annual reports online and donor poachers

I heard an interesting comment from another consultant this afternoon that I'm not sure I agree with. The topic was nonprofit annual reports, and whether or not yours should be posted on your web site.

For a long time we were all recommending this. Digital annual reports were a part of the paperless society all this technology was supposed to be working towards. As more and more nonprofits got their web site up and learned to make them informative and interactive, more and more took the advice of having their reports available for all to read. In some circles, it even became a matter of pride.

The consultant today said that the trend is now reversing. Fewer and fewer organizations are posting their annual reports online. The reason? Donor poachers!

Now, I'm well aware of the practice of reviewing other group's donor lists for ideas (whenever we go to a museum my wife has to remind me that the donor wall plaque is not the exhibit we went to see), but I was not aware that this had put a chill on sharing annual reports digitally.

How big a problem could this really be? You should be thanking your large foundation, corporate, and major individual donors publicly and frequently already - this list should not be a secret - so what is so different about the annual report? Are development officers now afraid that other organizations are stealing their smaller donors as well? Who is matching the names in annual reports to phone books to make contact lists? Nobody that I know of.

I'd like to know if this is really true. If you work with an organization that has previously posted your annual report online, or at least considered it, and now will not because of donor poachers, please let me know! What led you to that decision: a real problem with people contacting your donors, or just the perception of a potential problem? Send me an email, or comment here on the blog. Thanks!

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1 comment:

  1. I have no idea HOW wide spread of an issue it is... but I can say that I've worked for two organizations that did NOT post their annual report online for EXACTLY that reason.

    One of those groups was a smaller cultural organization that would use the annual reports of other organizations to develop lists of family foundations to approach for medium size gifts.

    The other group actually tasked a summer intern with calling a list of similiar nonprofits to ask for paper copies of the annual report... therefore, I assume for poachers this kind of practice was around long before the web.