The Tracy Foundation thinks of transparency in two ways—being open within the family, and being accessible to the wider community. Although they may not use the word transparency in board discussions, trustees do address the topic when it comes to trustee and family engagement. This is perhaps because the Tracy Family is a large family, with blood and family members adding to 24 in the second generation, 62 in the third generation, and 24 in the fourth generation.
According to president Jean Buckley, daughter of the founders R.T. and Dorothy Tracy, “From a grantmaking perspective, we’ve always been transparent in our process—communicating clearly on our website how to apply and when we make funding decisions. Yet, from a governance perspective, we realized we weren’t as up front as we could be.”
For example, for years the foundation has had a document outlining board member responsibilities and expectations. Yet there was nothing about board selection. “Next generation family members asked us: how do we really select board members? What does the process look like? We decided to document that process in writing, and make it available to the extended family.”
Right now, the foundation is planning for the next 20 years, she says, and that is calling on the board to be more transparent. “We’re asking each other tough questions that require us to be open and honest with each other, as board and family members. Questions such as: Do we want the foundation to be a key family connector for the next many years? How will we handle our estate planning? Do we wish to do our personal philanthropy together? It’s led to interesting conversations, and will continue to be essential in thinking about the future,” she says.
Read more about transparency in family foundations by Elaine Gast Fawcett at the National Center for Family Philanthropy.