Thursday, February 01, 2007

Who's watching now?

The recent series in the L A Times on foundation investment strategies is an example of the balancing role that the media - on behalf of the general public - can play in terms of the philanthropic sector. Whether or not you agree with the article's analysis - that the way foundations invest their endowed assets doesn't always align with the way they give their grant dollars - the role that the paper played in investigating and reporting on the phenomenon is critical.

The Greenlining Institute has a study on foundation giving and race that plays a similar role. Again, you may agree or disagree with the study's findings or its intent, but the fact is, someone is watching.

Joel Fleishman's new book on foundations as "the great American secret" has garnered a lot of press. He calls for foundations to be more open about who they are and what they do. Transparency as an industry-wide practice or value won't just happen. In fact, institutional transparency requires a two-way mirror. Yes, there is a lot that the foundations can do to be more open. At the same time, the public needs to let foundations know that we do care, that we recognize our role in the 'public trust' equation, and that we are watching.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am learning a lot about the importance of foundation (and NGO) transparency while here in Guatemala studying the philanthropic sector. Transparency is the antidote to the corruption that runs rampant here. The question is how much state regulation to impose in developing countries (to ensure reporting and transparency without being burdensome) and/or how much should rest on self-regulation schemes. Thanks for the great post (and blog!)