Fifteen Nonprofits Complete New Charities Review Council Accountability Wizard Process

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    SAINT PAUL, Minn., March 23 -Fifteen charitable organizations have already completed the new Charities Review Council of Minnesota (the Council) review process, known as the Accountability Wizard. All of the nonprofits met the Council's established standards in four critical areas: Public Disclosure, Governance, Financial Activity and Fundraising.

    Information about the organizations that have completed the new process, as well as those that completed the old process within the last three years, is available on the newly designed the Council "Smart Givers Network" website: http://www.smartgivers.org . More than 40 additional charitable organizations are currently in various stages of the Accountability Wizard process.

    The Council celebrates its 60th anniversary this year with a new technologically superior process that was introduced late in 2005. The Internet-based system significantly reduces the time required by both the organization and the Council to complete reviews, as compared to the prior manual system. Organizations that wish to participate in the review process answer a series of questions related to the standards during a self- assessment. The organizations' answers are then reviewed by the Council staff.

    "Our goal is to greatly increase the number of organizations that the Council has reviewed, so that the public will have access to more information to help them make smart giving decisions," Rich Cowles, the Council executive director, explained. "We hope that all charities asking Minnesotans for donations will participate in this assessment process, and we encourage donors to expect charities to do so. Our standards are widely accepted, and people have a right to expect that charities seeking their support should open themselves to review and agree to work toward meeting these standards."

    The Council board, staff and volunteers spent more than two years developing the new system from concept to reality when it became clear that the old process was no longer adequate to meet the needs of today. "In the past, we were able to review from 250-300 nonprofits, which was adequate for many years," Cowles said. "It is no longer sufficient today, when the Attorney General's Office reports that there are more than 6,500 charities registered in Minnesota."

    The Accountability Wizard is designed to be educational for the nonprofit, while providing additional information to potential donors. The Council staff is available to help charities through the process. Nonprofits that do not meet standards are encouraged to make the necessary changes. Nonprofits have 60 days to complete the process.

    The Alzheimer's Disease and Related Disorders Association Inc., Minnesota- North Dakota Chapter, was the first organization to complete the process. Other organizations include Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Greater Twin Cities; Cancer Research and Prevention Foundation; Children's Heartlink; Free to Be, Inc.; Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness; Girl Scout Council of St. Croix Valley; Greater Minneapolis Council of Churches; Hazelden Foundation; Helping Hands Outreach to Elders, Inc.; La Oportunidad; Life's Missing Link; Restart, Inc., Twin Cities Gay Men's Chorus and Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity.

    Those organizations that have completed the review process have been positive about the experience. "The review process was easy to do. We found it to be straightforward with good explanations," said Linda Blyth, executive assistant to the president/CEO, Big Brothers, Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities."

    "I really appreciated this process. Happily it was way more instructive than just jumping through hoops to get listed," said Jeff Fromm, executive director, Helping Hands Outreach to Elders. The process was a reminder that we must be mindful of incorporating best practices into our work."

    Patrick Murphy, director of development, Children's Heartlink, said, "The rating is crucial for us as a means to have an independent review of our program by an outside, nonpartisan organization which is able to give us a clear understanding of how we are doing as an organization ... the system was easy, concise and deliberative.

    "We heartily endorse the services and professionalism that the Accountability Wizard provided our organization in more effectively sharing our story and letting interested philanthropists gain a snapshot of the effectiveness of our ongoing operations," he added.

    For more information contact:

    Rich Cowles, Charities Review Council of Minnesota

    (651) 224-7030
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