Just to bring another perspective to this line of questions, here’s a fundraiser’s take. I’m sure there are lots of forward thinking, transparent non-profits out there who can speak candidly with anyone about mistakes and areas to improve, but my sense is that the vast majority are like my employer: they would never let any information that might even suggest something less than sparkling about them be publicly revealed.
We have one foundation funder who is openly critical of us, and funds us with a contract and a set of concrete tasks the organization accomplish. I would call this funder a proactive investor. They didn’t just evaluate us, they made their findings known, and better yet continued to offer us money if we made an effort to clean up our act. Many staff are grateful for this funder, and believe our organization has improved with its participation.
So I guess my point is, perhaps a non-profit is best served by funders who can own their criticism, stand by it and use it as a tool. The many many non-profits out there who are less interested in critically evaluating themselves can benefit from proactive investors like the one I have described. And at least when I am in the room with this funder, I am more or less confident that what they say about us at conferences is what they say to my face.
Wow. I might be advocating for a more public dialog, but I’m surprised as anyone to hear a nonprofit employee say their organization has benefited from a major funder being openly critical.