May 20, 2013

Nonprofits to Foundations: Give Us More Transparency

Survey finds nonprofits value ‘clear,’ ‘open’ and ‘honest’ communication

Nonprofit organizations want more transparency from the foundations that fund them, and they have strong opinions about what this means and why it’s important, according to the Center for Effective Philanthropy.

Last week, the center released a report based on a survey of 138 top officials at nonprofits around the country that ranged in size from one staff member to 1,300 and in longevity from five years to 160 years.

The survey of nonprofit leaders found the following:

  • Just 29% clearly understood how foundations used the information they required nonprofits to provide
  • 44% were unclear about how their work fit into their funders’ overall work
  • 51% wanted “a lot more” transparency about what foundations were learning
  • 75% wanted more transparency about the effect foundations themselves were having.

What this comes down to, according to the report, is that for nonprofits, foundation transparency is not only about what does or does not get communicated. Nonprofits want an unvarnished look at what foundations are learning through their work, how they assess performance and the effect the funders themselves are having, and their selection processes and funding decisions.

Ninety-one percent of nonprofit leaders surveyed said it was easier to form a good rela­tionship with funders that were more transparent, and 83% believed that more transparent foundations were more credible.

“It’s time to be serious about what we mean by ‘transparency,’” CEP president Phil Buchanan said in a statement. “Foundations that share staff contact information or post their Form 990 on their website can congratulate themselves for being transparent. Nonprofits know better.

“Our survey clearly shows that for a nonprofit leader, foundation transparency means being clear, open and honest about the processes and decisions that are relevant to nonprofits’ work.”

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