BBB Accreditation validates public trust in ALS charity

By Jerri Stroud, BBB Editor

Ice bucket challenge group

Employees of Austin Machine take the bucket challenge last summer.

Last summer’s wildly popular ice bucket challenge cut two ways for the ALS Association’s St. Louis Regional Chapter.

On the one hand, the challenge raised an addition $300,000 to support services for people suffering from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, as well as services for their caregivers. A portion of the money also went to a national fund for ALS research. Nationwide, the challenge raised $100 million.

With that success came scrutiny from donors and groups ranging from animal rights activists to those concerned about the California drought.

That’s where the chapter’s BBB accreditation paid off, said Maureen Barber-Hill, president and CEO of the local ALS chapter. Barber-Hill had the charity go through BBB’s charity evaluation process after she took over leadership of the chapter five years ago. The charity successfully met all 20 of BBB’s Standards for Charity Accountability.

Maureen Barber-Hill

Maureen Barber-Hill, president and CEO of the St. Louis Regional Chapter of the ALS Association.

“It’s important to the donors and the public,” Barber-Hill said. Clients and donors wanted the nonprofit to be accredited.

“It was crucial,” said Sandra Sullivan, communications and marketing manager. “When any organization raises a lot of money in a short period, people want to know how you spend your money and what kind of oversight you have. It was important to be able to say that we met the standards.”

In August – at the height of the challenge – donors viewed the chapter’s Charity Review 45 times, a dramatic increase over the previous month.

“People were checking us out,” Barber-Hill said.

The ALS association uses the BBB Accredited Charity seal on its promotional materials and its website, Sullivan said. The BBB dynamic seal on its website is an easy way for donors to confirm the chapter’s accreditation. If they click on the seal, they’ll see the chapter’s BBB Charity Review.

Six months after the challenge faded from public view, the local ALS chapter hopes to build on its success by engaging with the donors who contributed during the challenge.

“It was a fun thing, but we want them to stay involved,” Barber Hill said. “We’re going to continue to re-engage people who participated.”

And that, she said, will prompt even more people to check to see whether they’re BBB accredited.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2015 issue of BBB’s Torchlight magazine for BBB Accredited Businesses and Accredited Charities.

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