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Walking the Talk of Transparency

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

One of many topics permeating the philanthropic sector is “transparency.” Research and literature on the subject abound, including the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s report “Sharing What Matters: Foundation Transparency,”  “Nurturing Relationships with Transparency” on the National Center for Family Philanthropy’s blog, and the blog post “Why Transparency of Philanthropic Funding Matters” by the Transparency and Accountability Initiative, which helps donor members improve grantmaking practices and boost collective impact through greater transparency.

For years, foundations had (and some continue to have) “closed doors” about their grants and grants cycles, their operations, their people, their processes, and their practices. If foundations have websites, they often don’t list direct contact information, don’t share relevant grant information, don’t have news and information about partners or past grants, etc. There’s a wall between the foundation and nonprofits, and another wall between the foundation and the community.

At The Presser Foundation, staff and Board members believe that being transparent about our work strengthens our relationship with grantee partners. It is our responsibility to be engaged with and open in order to reduce the power imbalance between funder and nonprofit, while also sharing the why behind our mission and how we do our work.

We like to provide concrete examples, so we’ve outlined our work in two major groupings below – what we’ve done and what we’re currently doing regarding transparency, and what we envision accomplishing in the future.

What we’ve done/what we’re currently doing

Recently, The Presser Foundation completed a communications assessment and plan. From that plan, it established and began using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn as social media platforms. The Foundation also engaged a local website designer to redesign a new website full of additional information and engaging visuals. New information added includes the Foundation’s 990-PFs, a blog where content is posted every week (including guest blog posts by grantee partners), quarterly newsletters, FAQs about each grantmaking section and general FAQs, and an expanding resources section. We recognize that the website is a work in progress; new information and tools will be continually added to it to make it engaging, informative, and transparent.

Currently, we’re updating the Foundation’s reporting and application requirements (learn more in this blog post). Not only do we seek to ease the burden for our partners, but we strive to be transparent about our requirements and why we ask what we do. Editing and updating the applications and reports will be an evolving and iterative process to try to streamline them as much as possible while also still requesting the information the Board needs to make decisions.

The Presser Foundation also convenes its grantee partners around issues, topics, and trends of interest. Throughout COVID, music organizations had to rapidly adjust to changing circumstances. However, they didn’t have opportunities to speak with peers facing the same challenges. Thus, we created a virtual space for those organizations to come together to learn from and share ideas with each other. Called Next Movement, these virtual events have explored topics such as adapting to COVID, centering racial equity, and preparing and presenting budgets and financials for funders.

Presenting at conferences and events is another way that we seek to become more transparent and open about our work. The Presser Foundation is eager to present its centering equity work at the Exponent Philanthropy conference in October 2022, and we look forward to sharing more about our efforts at other occasions.

Finally, the Foundation is engaging with Candid to share grant data and information via eReporting. Through the eReporting process, Candid will obtain information helpful to its own efforts while a grant map will be created of all of the Foundation’s grants from 2020. We’re excited to share that map on the website once it’s complete. We will continue to send Candid the information yearly to enhance information about the sector.

What we envision

We hope to share more about the Foundation’s grantmaking process, including decision criteria. We’re also considering sharing how we assess our work, what we’re achieving and hope to achieve, and how we invest.

We aspire to add a grantmaking directory onto the Foundation’s website, which illustrates awarded grants, partners who received them, the size of the grant, and the grantmaking area. We’re not at the capacity yet to add this directory, but we hope to do so soon.

The Presser Foundation has undertaken steps to become more transparent; however, we know there are more and other steps we can take. While this article has focused on The Presser Foundation, we’re leveraging these resources, thoughts, and guiding principles across all of harp-weaver’s clients. Please let us know what you’re doing regarding transparency by emailing me, Abby Rolland at We’re keen to learn from others, share knowledge, and become more transparent in order to best support our partners.


Abby Rolland is Grants & Communications Consultant at harp-weaver LLC, a consulting firm offering philanthropic advisory services. The Presser Foundation is a harp-weaver client.
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