Fashions in philanthropy can be every bit as startling as the catwalk: evaluation methods and grantmaking approaches change as fast as hemlines. But onefashion that is probably here to stay (a bit like men’s suits) is transparency, which makes it worth taking a longer look at.
Transparency for funders is a helpful idea, but it’s not a panacea. If private foundations and grantmakers think it is, then their attempts to bring a measure of sunlight to a sector shrouded in mist are likely to fail or, much worse, do damage. We need to recognize that glass-pocket principles need to be more nuanced than they have been so far and that there are circumstances in which transparency can be a really bad idea. This is not saying funders should not share data – they should, as there are significant benefits – but we need to think harder about what we share publicly.
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