Guide aims to help funders be more ‘transparent’

A new guide aims to help foundations be more open about their work in response to growing demand for “transparency” by sharing “in a frank, easily accessible and timely way” what they do, how they do it, and the difference they make.

Transparency includes making available information such as past grants awarded, the process for selecting grantees, performance assessments and strategy documents, says “Opening Up: Demystifying Funder Transparency,” a guide from GrantCraft in collaboration with Glasspockets.

GrantCraft, a joint project of the Foundation Center and the European Foundation Centre, says 75 percent of survey respondents reported seeing increased demand for funder transparency over the past five years.

Transparency “is not a one-size-fits-all process for every foundation,” the guide says, and reflects a “mindset,” with funders believing “they are most effective when they approach all aspects of their work by saying, ‘let’s publicly share this,'” the guide says.

Transparency “can help foundations build and strengthen relationships that can ultimately help them make a bigger and stronger impact,” it says.

Benefits of transparency, it says, include “less time spent explaining goals and strategies to potential grantees; better, more on-target grant proposals; more effective and informed grantmaking based on feedback from grantees and other stakeholders; stronger and more open relationships with grantees and other nonprofit organizations; closer relationships with other foundations, leading to more collaborative grantmaking; and increased public trust.”

Becoming more transparent also involves challenges, the guide says, including limited staff time and “getting over the fear of admitting failure; feeling vulnerable; finding authentic ways to engage in real dialogue with grantees and others; and setting up sustainable systems for sharing information publicly.”

The guide, featuring case studies, includes sections and suggestions for sharing grantee selection process and grantee data; sharing performance assessments; strengthening engagement with grantees and other stakeholders; improving the practice of philanthropy; and connecting using every opportunity.

Todd Cohen

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