Transparency. It’s a word we’ve been hearing a lot about recently as various charities’ policies and activities are called into question – Kids Company being the most high-profile example.
The thing about transparency is, if you’re doing it right, there aren’t any scandals to uncover. The skeletons don’t need to be dragged out of the closet because you’ve already got them on display. True transparency means you know what you’re doing right, you know what’s gone wrong, and you’re open and flexible enough to say so – to ask for help if you need it, and adjust accordingly.
Transparency is about honesty and about knowing what you’re doing – not necessarily in the sense of knowing how to do it (though ideally that too!), but quite literally knowing what activities you’re undertaking, what their effects are, and why. Transparency means being open about what your end goal is and how you think you’re going to get there. You might be wrong, you might be right, but you’ve put your cards on the table.
And that’s where transparency and accountability intersect. If you have your end goal in sight, you have to know whether or not the path you’re on is going to get you there. You’ll only know that by looking at the evidence – and you’ll only have evidence if you measure it. If the evidence supports you, then great! You’ve got a solid answer for any questions thrown your way. If the evidence contradicts, then comes the difficult decision of asking yourself, what am I more committed to- the goal, or my path to get there?
Transparency keeps us all focused on the goal, rather than getting distracted by the path. Whether that’s supporting vulnerable children to become emotionally healthy, stable adults, curing prostate cancer, or reducing deaths from malaria. By sharing the methods, successes, and failures of our approaches across the sector, we learn from each other and can continue the cycle of iteration and improvement until we finally reach our goals. That might include sharing our approaches to service delivery, to financial management, or to our hiring processes. All of these are essential to a successful organisation and, rather than hiding our shortcomings, we need to admit when we’ve gotten it wrong and embrace the chance to improve.
Our top 3 tips for making your organisation more transparent:
1. Agree realistic targets upfront with funders and adjust as necessary
2. Evaluate the success of the programme real-time and be honest about feedback, challenges and improvements with funders.
3. Give you funder access to your real-time data and analytics in your CRM
At economic change we can help you achieve transparency:
We implement Salesforce CRM for clients which displays your data realtime in a clearly laid out, visual dashboard – for anyone who needs to see it.
We help you embed a social impact monitoring framework and process to evaluate your performance real-time.