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Foundations

A Revolution in Foundation Transparency

With a mission to “bring transparency to the world of philanthropy” Glass Pockets offers reports on the transparency of large, well known foundations.

“We think the foundation should have glass pockets.” – Russell Leffingwell, Chair, Carnegie Corporation, 1952

Hot on the heels of rolling out real time tracking of foundation grants in support of Haiti, the Foundation Center has quietly launched a new project with the whimsical name Glass Pockets.

With a mission to “bring transparency to the world of philanthropy” Glass Pockets offers reports on how transparent large, well known foundations are. These reports rate the foundations across 28 elements of transparency and accountability such as whether they explain their grantmaking process, provide a public assessment of the foundation’s performance and whether they offer a knowledge center that shares program evaluations and lessons learned.

You can currently find reports for a number of large foundations including:

Most importantly, the reports offer direct click-thru access to each element. So users can quickly find the Gates Foundation’s investment policies, the Ford Foundation’s grantmaking policy, or the Hewlett Foundation’s knowledge center.

Glass Pockets also offers a fascinating Foundation Transparency 2.0 database that shows the social media tools being used by over 400 foundations. From the database you can directly access the Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, blogs, e-newsletters and other tools being used by some of the country’s largest funders.

Finally, the site offers a Google-based search tool that lets users search the websites of thousands of private foundations. For instance, a search for the term Haiti brings back The Boston Foundation’s Haiti Relief & Reconstruction Fund, The Gates Foundation’s statement on their response to the earthquake and the Case Foundation’s blog post on ways that individual donors can support Haiti.

This is fascinating stuff! Not only is Glass Pockets suddenly the most important way to access important information about foundations, but the reports begin to set a level of expectation for large, staffed foundations to share more about their activities and what they know with the public. For instance, the reports note that the Ford Foundation does not make its 990-PF available, the Kellogg Foundation does not have a mechanism in place to allow grantee feedback and none of the foundations listed above share an assessment of their own performance with the public.

Talk about information overload. Glass Pockets offers users direct links to a deep library of information about foundations. I could get lost for days exploring this place!

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