Data Point: More Transparency Needed About What Foundations Are Learning

Discussions about foundation transparency have typically focused on items such as financial data, the names of foundation board members, or contact information for foundation staff. But, as we learned in Foundation Transparency: What Nonprofits Want, that’s not what nonprofit leaders care about.

Nonprofits want foundations to be more transparent about what they are learning through their work, how they assess performance and the impact foundations are having, and their selection processes and funding decisions.

The data about learning in particular may be news to foundation leaders. During a session on this topic at our recent national conference, there were several questions related to the item “foundations’ experiences with what they have tried but has not worked in their past grantmaking” from our transparency survey.

More than 85 percent of respondents want foundations to be more transparent about foundations’ experiences with what they have tried but has not worked in their past grantmaking. More than half of respondents say that foundation funders should be a lot more transparent about this. One nonprofit leader comments, “One of the best learning tools is to see what has not worked. Learning from foundations and their other grantees would be very instructive.”

Seventy-seven percent of respondents want their funders to be more transparent about best practices in the issue areas in which they fund. As one nonprofit leader says, “Please share the wealth of knowledge you glean from having a funder’s bird’s-eye view of the field.” Another explains how helpful foundations funders can be when they share this kind of information: “We are funded by some foundations that have a wealth of information and resources about what they have learned from other grantees. It significantly enhances our work when [foundation funders share this information].”


Andrea Brock is a former Manager on the Research team at the Center for Effective Philanthropy. You can find her on Twitter @CEP_Andrea.

Join the conversation about the findings featured in Foundation Transparency: What Nonprofits Want on Twitter using the hashtag #granteevoice.

2013 Conference, communications, foundation transparency, grantee perspectives, nonprofit sector, role of philanthropy
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