Giving Compass’ Take:
• Richard Russell and Richard Woo discuss the concept of transparency in philanthropy in terms of importance, scope, and limitations.
• What is the best way to share information with others? How can funders effectively learn from each other?
• Read more about transparency in philanthropy.
Transparency has become a “buzz” word in modern culture, but have you ever noticed how the notion of transparency tends to be transactional? Have you ever found yourself keeping tabs on how much information you share with others? How much they share with you and how freely it is volunteered?
If so, that makes perfect sense: it’s a big part of how we protect ourselves. Most of us link transparency with disclosure as part of an exchange that builds understanding and ultimately trust. But what happens when we separate these standards? Can transparency be redeployed to help build better relationships?
We think it can.
Transparency is a powerful force when used appropriately. The trick is deciding what is ‘appropriate’ across a wide range of contacts and interactions. In our prior blog posts, we shared our experience cultivating transparency through the lens of finding balance and sharing knowledge. This time around, we want to concentrate on ways to harness transparency for mutual benefit.
The main benefit, of course, is trust — the foundation of any relationship. Over time, transparency builds trust because it’s how we reveal ourselves and our intentions. We expose certain facts about ourselves, and signal our willingness to be exposed and evaluated. We listen and are listened to.
As an example, taking a principled stand or owning up to mistakes are powerful ways to show transparency. It takes guts to open up this way; but such sincerity can pave the way for new and deeper relationships. It also unlocks the benefits of those relationships, such as networking, advocacy, collaborating, inventing, and co-funding to name a few. That said, research and experience both demonstrate that transparency is not a one-size-fits-all solution. There are consequences to excessive (or imposed) transparency, including lost efficiencies, stymied innovation, and the inability to maintain appropriate confidentiality where necessary.
As many familiar with the expediency of business will attest, opaque practices that impede transparency in the short term, can actually contribute to better outcomes. The private sector understands this and it’s part of the competitive market. Family foundations should take heed too.
Read the full article on transparency in philanthropy by Richard Russell and Richard Woo at the National Center for Family Philanthropy.
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