Foundation Openness: A Critical Component of Foundation Effectiveness

Lindsay Louie at PhilanthroFiles: “We created the Fund for Shared Insight—a funder collaborative with diverse support from 30 different funders—to increase foundation openness. We believe that if foundations are more open—which we define as how they share about their goals and strategies; make decisions and measure progress; listen and engage in dialogue with others; act on what they hear; and share what they themselves have learned—they will be more effective.

WPhilanthropy Lessonse were so pleased to support Exponent Philanthropy’s video series featuring philanthropists being more open about their work: Philanthropy Lessons. To date, Exponent Philanthropy has released 5 of the total 9 videos, including:

Future video releases include:

  • Who Knows More? (expected 4/27/16)
  • Being Transparent (expected 4/27/16)
  • Value Beyond Dollars (expected 5/25/16)
  • Getting Out of the Office (expected 6/22/16)

We would love to see many more foundations make videos like these; engage in conversation with each other about these philanthropy lessons online and in person; share their experiences live at regional grantmaker association meetings or a national conferences like those Exponent Philanthropy hosts; and find other ways to be more open.

Why is this so important?

Recent research from the Center for Effective Philanthropy (report on CEP’s website here, full disclosure we funded this research) found that foundation CEOs see grantees, nonprofits that are considering applying for a grant, and other foundations working on similar issues as the top three audiences who benefit from a foundation being open about its work. Further, 86% of foundation CEOs who responded to the survey said they believe transparency is necessary for building strong relationships with grantees.

It was great to learn from this research that many foundations are open about their criteria for nonprofits seeking funding, their programmatic goals, and their strategies; and share about who makes decisions about the grantee selection process. Yet the research also found that foundations are not as open about sharing what they are achieving, how they assess their work, and their experiences with what has and hasn’t worked—and that foundation CEOs believe it would be beneficial for foundations to share more in these specific areas….(More)”