Transparency in Philanthropy

I’m having a great time at the Social Venture Partners conference in Cleveland. Enjoyed the reception at the Rock & Roll hall of fame and had the pleasure of meeting Christopher & Anne Ellinger of Bolder Giving (I’d mentioned them in a Financial Times column, but had never met them in person. Check out their EXCELLENT, free workbook here).

I’ll put up some posts next week about my time here, but I was sent an email from Social Venture Partner and Tactical Philanthropy reader David Lynn that I’d like to share with you. David is looking for input, so drop a comment on this post.


How transparent should we be? We are regularly analyzing non-profits and working closely with them, and in that process often discovering negatives, sometimes significant problems. Should those be public? Is it different if we uncover a problem and decide not to fund, versus one that might have a problem that we are going to attempt to help solve? One one hand, negative press can be horrible for a non-profit, and if you’re trying to develop a trusting relationship it won’t happen if they know their problems aren’t confidential. On the other side, if the goal is better philanthropy and community, then publicizing those problems educates everybody, and helps people find solutions and avoid mistakes.

Any thoughts appreciated. Thanks.

One Comment

  1. steve wright says:


    There seem to be conpeting ideas of Openess and Transparency. I think transparency is critical so that all stakeholders know what is required of them to succeed. How success is determined is a totally different question. Openness is has to do with access and who can see what. Openness is essential to create philanthropic marketplaces. And, openness, in my view, can take place within borders, it is not all or nothing. I wrote a little bit about that here: