Transparency: Still A Hot Topic

There has been a great deal of conversation lately about transparency, open-source organizations and their impact on the philanthropic world – what it all means; how much is enough. How can an organization be responsive to all stakeholders.

Here are two posts on organization transparency we suggest reading.

from Lucy Bernholz, The downsides of transparency:

So what does all that have to do with philanthropy? As a champion of efforts to share information and data more widely within philanthropy, I need to step back… and ask, what are the downsides of transparency? Which of these are due to technology or existing legal frameworks, and which of them come from elsewhere, from our norms and assumptions about how giving works or what philanthropy is for? And what scenarios can we imagine from greater data sharing that we’d prefer to avoid?

… Those are a few, small “what ifs?” What really matters here is this: Can we collectively identify what the normative assumptions are about philanthropy and its roles in society, and then identify what the interaction of technology-enabled transparency and those assumptions might be?

from Alison Fine, Nonprofits and Transparency:

We need to begin from one fundamental premise: Transparency is not a technology tool. It is aided by technology. At its core, a value that creates organizational norms. The default setting for too many nonprofit organizations, to date, has been to the closed, proprietary side of the dial. We need a new transparency default setting and err on the side of openness, or sunlight as Ellen would say!

Nonprofits need to begin to ask themselves questions about transparency to guide their work. These questions include:

1. Will sharing this information advance our mission of benefiting our community?

2. How can others build on our content and make it better?

3. Will revealing this information improve morale and make staff feel better informed and able to make decisions on their own?

4. Will sharing this information better connect us to our network and help us to build relationships that we need to be successful?

Nonprofits spend too much time worrying about things that could go wrong or how they might be able to create a new revenue stream with their content. Both conversations are time spent putting up big walls between organizations and their communities. Take the walls down, make transparency the default setting.