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Center for Effective Philanthropy Further Explores Foundation Transparency

Friday, March 18, 2016
The Center for Effective Philanthropy recently released their latest study, Sharing What Matters: Foundation Transparency. This study explores how transparency is defined, operationalized, and implemented in the philanthropic sector. 
Four research questions guided the study: 
  1. Why do foundation CEOs see as the key audiences for transparency? 
  2. How do foundation CEOs define transparency? 
  3. How transparent do foundation CEOs believe their foundations currently are?
  4. According to foundation CEOs, is there a relationship between transparency and foundation effectiveness? 
Overall, foundation leaders see their grantees and potential grantees as important audiences for transparency and share a similar idea of what it means to be transparent. The majority of both foundation and grantee respondents felt transparency is necessary for building strong relationships. Both foundation and nonprofit CEOs saw transparency as representing the values of clarity, openness, and honesty. While 38% of foundation CEOs mentioned financial transparency (defined as investment, accounting, and 990 information) as important, grantees did not. 
Interestingly, foundations CEOs agree transparency in how they assess their own performance is beneficial, yet their foundations are not transparent in that respect. A further analysis of foundation websites found most did not contain information about previously employed strategies. The researchers were unable to answer why, but argue a significant opportunity to strengthen practices and learn from the past is lost by not sharing this information. The report also includes examples of transparency in practice from the Case Foundation and Grantmakers for Effective Organizations'  Fail Fest.
Further Reading
  • Opening Up: Demystifying Funder Transparency (GrantCraft) 
    This toolkit explores how transparency can strengthen credibility, improve grantee relationships, facilitate greater collaboration, increase public trust, reduce duplication of effort, and build communities of shared learning.
  • Transparency and Accountability Toolkit (WINGS)
    This toolkit attempts to inform support organizations serving philanthropy on the essential elements of transparency and accountability for philanthropy and private social investment.
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