December 12, 2010; Source: Star-Telegram | With one holiday giving article after another urging donors to do their homework on charities, it would be nice to believe that those that set themselves up to inform donors would take care not to do harm.

An recent editorial in the Star-Telegram written by Heather Reynolds, the CEO of Catholic Charities Diocese of Fort Worth complains that the local Better Business Bureau published a report sent to 3,500 BBB member agencies that tarnished its reputation. Apparently the BBB rates local charities on the basis of 20 standards and in responding to the questionnaire, Catholic Charities admittedly did not attach all requested documents. This resulted in the public report stating that the organization did not meet BBB’s standards. This seemed to have left the impression with many that it, along with other good organizations, was somehow not good prospects for a contribution.

The 100-year-old Catholic Charities protests that it spends 90 percent of every dollar contributed on direct services, and that last year it provided those services to 110,000 residents. Catholic Charities says it is one of only eight organizations in the immediate area to receive national accreditation from the Council of Accreditation office in New York. “To receive COA accreditation, an organization is turned inside out and evaluated against 820 best-practice standards. The accreditation process takes 15 months from start to finish and requires an in-depth three- to four-day site visit from professionals across the United States.” While admitting that they did not complete its paperwork for BBB, Catholic Charities charges that the local BBB’s own standards of practice as a ratings agency are well below par.

The organization suggests that to prevent any additional problems of this kind, BBB needs to do two things. First, conduct a follow up with organization to double check if there is a question about anything. Then reveal to the public the limitations of their own processes.

Last year the Better Business Bureau rating system was investigated by the Connecticut Attorney General because many felt that there was a “pay to play’ scheme happening there but this story also connects to ones NPQ has previously done on Charity Navigator, another rating system which is now reviewing its processes.—Ruth McCambridge