Tim Wilson is the funding director & social investment fund manager at City Bridge Trust, an independent grantmaker in the heart of London. When the Trust gathered feedback from its grantees through the Grantee Perception Report (GPR) in 2016, it was rated in the top 40 percent of CEP’s overall comparative dataset for transparency, and in the top 20 percent for its processes for selecting grantees.

How does City Bridge Trust approach transparency, and what informs that approach? When asked about the meaning of transparency for the Trust — and about the trade-offs the organization faces in practice — Wilson shares several key lessons.

Open Up to Public Scrutiny to Allow for Better Decisions
According to Wilson, philanthropy is about maximizing the use of limited resources in order to achieve impact. “If you believe in the value of debate and scrutiny of your foundation’s work by others in the sector, and in being open about what it does and why, transparency matters because it allows for intelligent critique of the choices that you’ve made,” Wilson says. For City Bridge Trust, this is the basis for the way they operate: to be clear on what they’re doing, why they’re making the choices they make, and why the strategy is set in the direction it is.

Encourage a Mutual Learning Exchange
City Bridge Trust is part of a wider system; the Trust doesn’t fund in isolation, and networks and learning are an important part of what they do, Wilson says. He believes that the Trust learns more by being open and transparent about what they fund and why. On the one hand, this is because doing so invites feedback and encourages public debate, leading to better decisions. On the other hand, it is because transparency encourages an exchange between funders, whereby more and more foundations share what they deliver and how they work, which in turn leads to mutual learning opportunities.

Be Transparent About Failure
“All of our grants involve risk, and we’re all trying to do things that haven’t been done exactly like that before,” Wilson says. “So if things go wrong, that’s part of what we’d expect.”

Read the full article about transparency by Charlotte Brugman at The Center for Effective Philanthropy.