New Web Platform Encourages
Foundation Transparency in the Digital Age
New York, NY — February 1, 2010. How does the foundation of the 21st century achieve transparency? Does it post a searchable grants database at its web site? Does it use Twitter or Facebook to distribute news about its program priorities? At www.glasspockets.org, a web site launched today by the Foundation Center, foundations that have taken the lead in communicating about their work, particularly using online resources and social networks, are featured along with direct links to their current initiatives. Designed to inspire greater openness among private foundations, Glasspockets encourages these organizations to tell the stories of their successes — and failures — in part by highlighting exemplary efforts of their peers.
According to Foundation Center President Bradford K. Smith, the term "glass pockets" was used more than 50 years ago by then-Carnegie Corporation of New York Board Chair Russell Leffingwell, who told a McCarthy-era Congressional hearing: "We think that the foundation should have glass pockets." His comment underscored popular sentiments — still held today — that organizations receiving tax exemptions for serving the public good must be willing to clearly explain how they are doing so. A series of such hearings inspired the creation of the Foundation Center in l956 as the "glass pockets" through which America's foundations could be made more transparent to the public.
"The Foundation Center believes strongly in the kind of freedom that allows U.S. foundations to be innovative, take risks, and work on long-term solutions to the world's most vexing problems," says Smith. "To preserve this freedom, foundations must tell the story of what they do, why they do it, and what difference they make. Glasspockets will serve as a central source of knowledge that can fuel this movement toward greater transparency in philanthropy."
Visitors to glasspockets.org will find essential facts about all 97,000 U.S. foundations, illustrations of philanthropy's impact on the issues that people care about, and information on the ways in which foundations are striving to become more transparent. The site features real-time Twitter feeds to convey "What foundations are saying right now," while "Foundation Transparency 2.0" showcases the growing number of foundations that are using social media. "Who Has Glass Pockets?" provides at-a-glance profiles of individual foundations' online communication practices according to information they make public regarding their governance, finances, grantmaking processes, and performance metrics. Project manager Janet Camarena confirms that foundations are coming forward and volunteering to be put under the magnifying glass and hopes others will use what they learn on the site to conduct their own assessments and open them to public view.
Glasspockets was developed together with partners, including the Center for Effective Philanthropy (CEP) and the Communications Network. CEP President Phil Buchanan says, "We have seen in our work a link between foundation effectiveness and clear and open communication. Glasspockets.org takes an important step towards facilitating that communication, thereby making philanthropy not just less mysterious, but also more effective."
Communications Network Executive Director Bruce Trachtenberg adds, "It is so important for foundations to share — with each other and the public — information about the issues they are tackling and what they are accomplishing. Glasspockets.org serves as a window through which people can look to gain understanding about the work and relevance of institutional philanthropy, and it offers suggestions to foundations about ways they can make their work more transparent."
Other partners include the Global Philanthropy Forum, Grantmakers for Effective Organizations, and the One World Trust in London.
About the Foundation Center
Established in 1956 and today supported by close to 550 foundations, the Foundation Center is the nation's leading authority on philanthropy, connecting nonprofits and the grantmakers supporting them to tools they can use and information they can trust. The Center maintains the most comprehensive database on U.S. grantmakers and their grants — a robust, accessible knowledge bank for the sector. It also operates research, education, and training programs designed to advance knowledge of philanthropy at every level. Thousands of people visit the Center's web site each day and are served in its five regional library/learning centers and its network of more than 400 funding information centers located in public libraries, community foundations, and educational institutions in every U.S. state and beyond. For more information, please visit foundationcenter.org or call (212) 620-4230.
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