Foundation CEOs are emphasizing transparency and have identified grantees and prospective grantees as a target audience instead of the likes of government policymakers, journalists and the general public. CEOs of independent foundations identified grantees and nonprofits considering applying for a grant as the intended audience for transparency in 95 and 84 percent of cases, respectively. Both groups are the intended audience for 96 percent of community foundations.
Government policy makers (57 percent for independent foundations and 76 percent for community foundations), journalists who report on philanthropy (46 percent and 67 percent) and the general public (45 percent and 72 percent) made up the bottom of the list. Donors were a target audience for 98 percent of community foundations, but were not offered as a potential answer to independent foundations’ CEOs.
The data comes from a survey of 145 foundation CEOs conducted by The Center for Effective Philanthropy, located in Cambridge, Mass. The survey revealed that, not only are foundation leaders thinking about transparency, they are evaluating what they share and with who based on how it can make the foundation more successful, according to Ellie Buteau, Ph.D., vice president of research and main author of the report.
“It was surprising and promising to see that foundation leaders are thinking about transparency and that they have clear audiences in mind for the information that they are sharing,” Buteau said.
A matrix emphasizing the perceived degree transparency could improve foundation effectiveness and CEOs’ existing self-reported level on such items, showed correlated emphasis on programmatic goals, grant application criteria and strategies to reach programmatic goals. Governance practices and foundation investments landed on the opposite end of the spectrum. Identifying who within the foundation makes funding decisions was the lone item seen as inessential to effectiveness that was oft disclosed.
Other key findings from the report include:
Buteau is hoping that foundation leaders’ willingness to share certain pieces of information will lead to future improvements in disclosures. In particular, Buteau is interested in foundations sharing organizational experiences and things peers could learn from. “It’s a consistent finding and I think we’re wondering what would need to happen for that to change,” Buteau said.
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