How transparent is your organization?
Defining Organizational Transparency
Transparency is not a fading 2010 buzzword. It is an evergreen concept that members and the public demand. It is the way an organization and its leaders think and behave. It’s how an organization grows trust that is rewarded by loyalty.
An authentic, transparent organization intentionally shares information beyond the board room with members and nonmembers alike. Organizational transparency encourages, honors and engages with public input. It doesn’t ignore it. It doesn’t hide behind the membership wall.
Wikipedia defines transparency as
Transparency, as used in the humanities and in a social context more generally, implies openness, communication, and accountability. It is a metaphorical extension of the meaning [that] a “transparent” object is one that can be seen through. Transparent procedures include open meetings, financial disclosure statements, freedom of information legislation, budgetary review, audits, etc.
An Organization Transparency Checklist
Which of the following items does your organization have?
- Open board meetings
(Dates, times and locations of open meetings are posted online at least two weeks in advance of the meetings)
- Financial disclosure statements
(Nonprofits should consider posting their audited financial statements on their website)
- Freedom of information legislation
(Rules that guarantee access to data held by the state; they establish a “right-to-know” legal process where requests can be made for government-held information)
- Budgetary reviews
- Annual audits
- IRS letter of determination
(For nonprofits, preferably posted on their website)
- Annual Reports
(Posted on the organization’s website for easy access)
- Strategic Plans and priorities
- Names of Board of Directors and key staff as well as their contact information
(Posted on the organization’s website)
- Straight talking leadership
- Open culture and operations
(many voices on behalf of the organization)
- Disclosed partnerships
- Frank, open communications including the good and bad
- Core values
(That are easy to understand and posted on the organization’s website)
Guidestar‘s 2008 The State Of Nonprofit Transparency: Voluntary Disclosure Practices posted in 2009 has some interesting findings .
- 43% of nonprofits surveyed post their Annual Reports on their website.
- 13% post their audited financial statements on their website.
- 3% post their respective IRS letter of determination on their website.
How transparent and trusted is your organization? What can you do to improve that transparency and trust? What other items would you add to the transparency checklist?