Privacy and Transparency: Anonymous vs. Public Giving

About this collection: This timely and important NCFP Content Collection provides context for new donors considering how public to be with their grantmaking, management and operations, and provides ideas for existing foundations and boards contemplating this question.

Modesty may make some families reticent, but others point to the potential for good in the family name and reputation. Many families have learned to take explicit advantage of what can be a useful grantmaking tool. The family name can garner respect, or at least attention. It can act as an imprimatur of sorts, particularly when the family encourages grantees to let others know they fund them. This NCFP Content Collection provides context for new donors considering how public to be with their grantmaking, management and operations, and provides ideas for existing foundations and boards contemplating this question.

Tip: Check out the Policy Central: Grantmaking and Strategy collection for sample Publicity and Recognition policies.

Transparency in Family Philanthropy: Opening to the Possibilities

Transparency in Family Philanthropy: Opening to the Possibilities

Report
What choices do you have when it comes to transparency? How open and accessible is your family foundation—to the extended family, to grant seekers and partners, to the public? What approach do your colleague foundations take, and why? This guide examines how family funders are thinking, acting—and not …

Transparency Case Study: The Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation of Minnesota

Article
What choices do family foundations and funds have when it comes to transparency? And what approaches are families taking when it comes to managing transparency, communications, and privacy? NCFP's new guide, "Transparency in Family Philanthropy: Opening to the Possibilities," features a collection of five diverse funder stories exploring different takes …

Transparency Case Study: Bush Foundation

Blog Post
What choices do family foundations and funds have when it comes to transparency? And what approaches do other families take when it comes to managing transparency, communications, and privacy? NCFP’s new guide, Transparency in Family Philanthropy: Opening to the Possibilities examines how family funders are thinking about transparency.
swimming pool with decorative stones

Transparency Case Study: The Russell Family Foundation

Blog Post
What choices do family foundations and funds have when it comes to transparency? And what approaches do other families take when it comes to managing transparency, communications, and privacy? NCFP’s new guide, Transparency in Family Philanthropy: Opening to the Possibilities examines how family funders are thinking about transparency.
light graphics: microphoto of wrapped plastic foil in polarized light

Transparency Case Study: Barr Foundation

Blog Post
What choices do family foundations and funds have when it comes to transparency? And what approaches do other families take when it comes to managing transparency, communications, and privacy? NCFP’s new guide, Transparency in Family Philanthropy: Opening to the Possibilities examines how family funders are thinking, acting—and, in …

Transparency Case Study: Tracy Family Foundation

Article
What choices do family foundations and funds have when it comes to transparency? NCFP's new guide, "Transparency in Family Philanthropy: Opening to the Possibilities," features a collection of five diverse funder stories exploring different takes on how families think about and act on transparency—and what they have learned as …

Embracing Transparency at the The Russell Family Foundation

The Lasting Value of Transparency

Article
Transparency enhances our ability to learn, to lead, to reach consensus, and even agree to disagree. That’s because adopting a mindset of transparency encourages deeper participation and helps us stay focused on our mission. As a result, we tend to be more successful and satisfied working together because we …

Practicing Transparency for Discovery and Learning

Article
For us, transparency is as much about discovery as disclosure. That’s because the discovery process is how we determine: (1) what we know, (2) what we don’t know, (3) where we stand, and (4) what boundaries, if any, exist for a specific topic.

Nurturing Relationships with Transparency

Article
Transparency is a powerful force when used appropriately. The trick is deciding what is “appropriate” across a wide range of contacts and interactions. In our prior blog posts, we shared our experience cultivating transparency through the lens of finding balance and sharing knowledge. This time around, we want to concentrate …

Giving Publicly vs. Giving Anonymously

Should I Give Anonymously or Publicly?

Article
Whether or not you “go public” with your philanthropy is a matter of strategy and personal style. Ask yourself, given the change you want to see in the world, what’s the right approach? This short issue brief from the GiveSmart website provides a list of considerations for determining how …

What is my giving style? Two considerations: Visibility & Impact

Report
This guide identifies two (among many) considerations that shape a philanthropist’s giving style. The first is the degree of visibility a donor wants (or does not want): at one end of the spectrum is the anonymous giver, and on the other end is the public advocate. The second consideration …

Privacy and Publicity: First Steps in Creating a Communications Strategy

Article
Family philanthropy is at once an intensely private and a very public enterprise where personal principles meet public obligations. It is often difficult to find a compromise between these competing values. Many giving families opt to keep a low public profile, preferring to remain largely out of the public eye. …

Public or Private: the Empowered Choice

Article
Fear can cause people to keep the amount of money they have a secret, but the choice of how much to disclose should be an informed one based on personal values and beliefs. This article offers guidelines for making this choice, suggesting risk assessment, seeking support, and allowing adequate time …

Pros and cons of giving publicly vs. giving anonymously

Article
This article lists the pros and cons of giving anonymously, from both a donor's and a charity's point of view. Donor issues discussed include recognition versus unwanted attention; charity issues include the benefit of association with a big name, and the danger of linkage with a controversial one.

Privacy vs. Secrecy

Article
The distinction between privacy and secrecy, one often blurred, is important in deciding when to disclose information about how much money you have. This article defines a secret as withheld personal information that is important to actions in a relationship, and gives advice on the application of this definition to …

Additional Views on Transparency and Anonymity

Foundation Transparency: Opacity — It’s Complicated

Report
Calls for greater transparency from social institutions are gaining momentum in American culture, especially given concerns about the potential risks to society from misconduct hidden from public view. Such concerns have escalated since the 2008 global financial crisis, where consequences of misconduct had broad impact. While social institutions had little role …

Sharing What Matters: Foundation Transparency – Center for Effective Philanthropy

Report
We drew these conclusions from analyses of surveys of 145 independent and community foundation CEOs, a review of more than 70 foundation websites, and surveys of more than 15,000 grantees. Three profiles included in the report—Baptist Healing Trust, Central New York Community Foundation, and an anonymous foundation—provide a more in-depth look …

Admitting Failure: Learning from Mistakes in Philanthropy

Article
I was recently invited to speak about mistakes and learning in philanthropy at the Grants Managers Network's annual conference. My presentation argued that admitting failures contributes to high-quality implementation, innovation of new strategies and improved governance and transparency. Despite increasing philanthropic interest in mistakes and learning, many foundation staff still …

10 General Guidelines for Greater Foundation Transparency

Article
Given the immense diversity of foundations, it is a challenge to talk about any aspect of foundation behavior that goes beyond the minimum required in law and public policy to reach prescriptions for the behavior of foundations across the board.

Transparency in Family Foundations: the Strength of Glass Pockets

Article
Family foundations, by their very nature, are complex. With significant involvement of family members on the board and sometimes in operations as well, there can be layers of generations, widely divergent views and the need to preserve positive family relationships. This complexity is a challenge but not an excuse for …

Communicating for impact: Strategies for grantmakers

Article
A good communications strategy can amplify a grantee’s program and message in critical ways. Although some grantmakers readily embrace communications and its related technologies to meet programmatic goals, others are unsure about where to begin.

Privacy and Publicity: First Steps in Creating a Communications Strategy

Article
Family philanthropy is at once an intensely private and a very public enterprise where personal principles meet public obligations. It is often difficult to find a compromise between these competing values. Many giving families opt to keep a low public profile, preferring to remain largely out of the public eye. …

Soliciting Grantee Feedback: a Benefit to Both Sides

Article
To best help the nonprofit organizations that we say we wish to serve, foundations must be prepared to invite open, honest feedback, consider it carefully, and then communicate findings and decisions back to the public.

To Whom You Are Accountable

Presentation
This presentation slide from Grant Philanthropic Advisors displays the different stakeholders that philanthropists are accountable to and lists ways to uphold accountability.

Transparency and Telling Your Story: NCFP Webinars

May 10, 2018

Privacy, Purpose and the Public Trust: Finding a Balance

How do you balance what you share externally with your family’s need for privacy? And what are the benefits and challenges of being transparent in your communications and relationships? Join NCFP as we explore this topic with family philanthropy experts. Additional Resources:
August 11, 2016

Family Philanthropy and Media Perceptions

Family foundations are passionate and dedicated to improving their communities and leading conversations that will help advance their missions. But as they look to expand their work, many families have a hard time explaining their work to and building relationships with the media. Many foundations simply don't know where to …
October 8, 2015

Community Connections: Engaging Diverse Stakeholders in Your Grantmaking

What are the spectrum of options available to family foundations and funds seeking to engage diverse perspectives in their work? What are the benefits of doing so and how can you develop a strategy and plan that makes the most sense for your governance and grantmaking approach? And how can …
February 13, 2014

Telling your story to maximize community impact

You work hard to ensure you are maximizing community impact but do you have all the tools in your toolbox to lift up your grantees? Learn how new media tools can help you tell your grantee’s stories, deepen community connections and advocate for your cause. Have you thought about …
October 2, 2008

Engaging Stakeholders for Better Grantmaking

We hear more and more these days about working with grantees as partners. But how is that really done? And does it truly make the work of your foundation more effective? Courtney Bourns, Director of Programs for Grantmakers for Effective Organizations offers strategies for authentically engaging grantees and other community …

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