The Case for Financial Transparency in Non-Profits
“The greatest threat to the not-for-profit sector is the betrayal of public trust, the disappointment of public confidence.”
–Professor Joel Fleishman, Duke University
This week, Fedcap released its first half-year financials for 2017. This process takes place via webinar, and this year attracted more than 150 participants from business, academia, government, and non-profit sectors. Every six months, we present our financials along with an overview of our programmatic and service growth and sustainability. I am happy to report that for the first half of this year, we show very strong growth and stability in our organization. Please feel free to review our release at www.fedcap.org.
Many people might see the gathering and analysis of data as a bi-annual chore. Frankly, I see it as a privilege. It is an opportunity to reflect on our mission and our values and to see how we are progressing in relation to our strategy and our planning. It also gives us an opportunity to see and measure the success of our growth.
As the head of a large non-profit, I have a huge responsibility to our funders, our partners, and our individual and corporate donors. The resources they entrust to us are precious and are given to us in good faith that we will be meticulous in our use of them. Too many non-profits have foundered due to inefficient tracking and reporting of their funds. Bob Carlson, in an article in a 2011 Chronicle of Philanthropy article cites lack of fiscal transparency as the number one complaint that is made to states’ attorneys general. In addition, in the absence of information, there is room for misunderstandings and misperceptions which can lead to reputational risk. Non-profits have failed not only because of lack of financial stewardship but even by failing to meet their stakeholders’ expectations for transparency. I believe it is essential to incorporate the best business practices into our non-profit reporting.
While emphasis on our mission is key to engaging the hearts and minds of our partners, demonstrating our financial reporting creates a common and exact language out stakeholders understand. The numbers tell the story of our work, our mission, our successes, and our areas for improvement.
On May 16, we received several excellent questions from our stakeholders who attended our financial release. I so appreciate their engagement; their questions and interest continue to propel us to fulfill our mission of creating opportunities for the power of possible through relevant, sustainable impact.
I welcome your thoughts about financial transparency in non-profits. What are your experiences?