Transparency Talk

Category: "Annual Report" (16 posts)

The Annual Report is Dead. Long Live the Annual Report!
October 13, 2016

(Neal Myrick is Director of Social Impact at Tableau Software and Director of Tableau Foundation, which encourages the use of facts and analytical reasoning to solve the world’s problems. Neal has served in both private and nonprofit senior leadership positions at intersection of information technology and social change.)

Neal Myrick photoMaybe it is the headlines from the campaign trail, but I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about philanthropy, impact, and accountability.

As the head of Tableau Foundation, I’m responsible for ensuring that we embody the values our employees have entrusted us to uphold. My team and I are accountable to the thousands of people who make up Tableau, and to the tens of thousands of Tableau customers and partners who are passionate about using data to drive change.

The question I’ve been wrestling with is not if we should tell our story, but how. How can we share what’s been accomplished in a way that is both timely and true without taking credit for someone else’s work? Moreover, how can we do all of this while still being a good steward of the company’s resources?

Annual_Report_Open_ThumbnailThat’s why I’m pleased to share the Tableau Foundation’s brand new Living Annual Report. We’ve ditched the traditional, glossy printed annual report for a live report so anyone can get near real-time information on what we’re doing around the globe.

The Living Annual Report gives our stakeholders better, more timely information while reducing the investments of staff time and resources of a traditional printed report. It pulls information from the same data sources we use every day. The report updates weekly, and most pages have interactive capabilities that allow anyone to explore the data.

The Report doesn’t just take look back at what we’ve done, either. It is also helping us chart the course ahead.

Earlier this year we adopted the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as a framework for setting our priorities and measuring progress. While the 17 Goals themselves are expansive, the 230 underlying indicators help us organize our activities and approach partnerships with a clear sense of what we’re trying to achieve.

SDG breakdown

Page 3 of the report shows the latest breakdown of Tableau Foundation grants by goal.

We recognize that we’re capacity builders, and that the issues we’re trying to effect require much larger collaborative efforts. After all, the problems we’re trying to solve are multidimensional, so why should the solutions be different?

Almost immediately, real-time transparency around priorities led to more relevant and constructive conversations with potential partners.  We are finding more opportunities to deploy our two most valuable resources - our products and our people – to help people around the globe use facts and data to solve some of the world’s toughest challenges.  

And somewhere in putting the report together, it became about something bigger. We started to see the Report as a model that shows foundations and nonprofits that they don’t have to spend substantial resources printing reports that are outdated the moment they are printed.

The purpose of a foundation or nonprofit’s annual report is to persuade decision-makers – funders, board members, partners, lawmakers – to take action. But if the information in the report is outdated, how can those people make choices that lead to real impact?

“We’ve ditched the traditional, glossy printed annual report for a live report with near real-time information on what we’re doing around the globe.”

This is not to say we should sacrifice storytelling. On the contrary, interactive charts and graphs sitting seamlessly alongside photos, videos, testimonials, and one-click calls-to-action can create a holistic engagement experience far beyond what a static printout might do. 

My real hope is that our report will inspire others to ditch the glossy paper and to get on board with the real purpose of the report – sharing actionable, up-to-date information with those in a position to take action. Some already have. Heron Foundation has been reporting on their portfolio through data visualizations for several years now. The Foundation Center’s Glasspockets transparency assessment tools and Foundation Maps are bringing sector-wide insights to grantmaking. And after seeing our Living Annual Report, others tell me they’re not far behind.

Imagine talking to a Development Director, for example, and being able to explore an interactive, near-real-time annual report to help you understand how your investment in the organization is having impact?  Not “as-of last May” when a traditional annual report would have been printed, but as-of last week? As a funder, we can and should lead by example.

Which brings me back around to the idea of impact and accountability. To do our work well, we have to share timely information. This means sharing what we are doing, showing how our resources are being spent, and being responsible for the progress… or possibly lack thereof.

This level of accountability can be uncomfortable sometimes, but is necessary to establish more constructive partnerships based on trust, set ourselves up to learn from the data, and ultimately do more impactful work.

As the work grows and changes, this report will change with it. And we’re continually making improvements and all suggestions are welcome – feel free to email us anytime at foundation@tableau.com with any feedback.   

--Neal Myrick

What's Your Story?: Q&A with Kenneth Rainin Foundation's Amanda Flores-Witte
July 21, 2016

(The Kenneth Rainin Foundation, which recently joined the Glasspockets transparency movement, shares how innovation, technology and creativity played a role in telling its story in its annual report. Janet Camerena is director of transparency initiatives at Foundation Center. Amanda Flores-Witte is senior communications officer at Kenneth Rainin Foundation.)

Janet Camarena: Increasingly, foundations are wondering whether there is still a need for the time and expense of issuing an Annual Report. The thinking goes that with the advent of informative foundation websites, that perhaps the annual report is an antiquated ritual. The Kenneth Rainin Foundation recently updated this ritual by issuing its Turning Points 2015 Year in Review as an entirely online resource, creatively using video and the Medium platform to tell the story of the road you traveled last year. Can you begin by telling us why your foundation determined the annual report exercise, whatever the format, was still a worthwhile one?

Amanda Flores-WitteAmanda Flores-Witte: When we set out to work on any project, our aim is never to do something solely because it is expected or because we did it that way last time. We get curious and ask questions, while revisiting our goals and keeping transparency in mind. This is exactly the approach we took when thinking about our year in review. We challenged ourselves to think creatively about how we could best share our story while highlighting the work of our grantees and partners.

Fortunately, technology has breathed new life into annual reports by offering a variety of tools, platforms, and formats, and more innovative ways to share information and engage readers. We felt that a summary that highlighted the year's activities-or captured the turning points in each program area-would be a valuable tool for people to get to know the Kenneth Rainin Foundation and learn about our progress. We thought an online report would allow us the flexibility to present our story in an interactive format using text, photos, audio and video, and make the report more interactive. We know that people engage with content in different ways and use a variety of devices to access it, so it was important for us to also have the ability to leverage our assets and promote the report on social media, our website and our newsletter.

JC: The Kenneth Rainin Foundation emphasizes innovation, and the word "cutting edge" comes up a lot throughout the organization, including in the mission. I imagine this must set the bar pretty high - that your own communications be cutting edge? Beyond the Annual Report, are there other ways that you try to live up to that "cutting edge" aspiration when it comes to telling the story of the foundation?

AFW: We strive to be authentic and shine a bright light on the terrific work our grantees are doing, as well as build our presence online, which is where people tend to spend a great deal of time. Being innovative means that we are continually revisiting how we communicate our work-is there a better, more effective or more inspiring way to accomplish our goals? We are always curious about what other organizations are doing and enjoy exploring. In addition, our board of directors and staff are not shy about sharing their ideas and challenging us to think bigger or look at projects through a different lens. There is nothing more exciting to us than brainstorming an idea and then diving in to research how to best execute it. Kenneth Rainin FoundationWe value flexibility and being open minded as our projects evolve. We also realize there are risks involved when we embrace new or unconventional ideas. In our organization, staff members have the freedom to experiment. This way of thinking is at the heart of all our programs. We realize that some things might be less successful than we wanted, and there will be successes we didn't anticipate. Either way, we always learn valuable lessons that we can apply to the next big idea.

JC: Next, let's talk about the formats, beginning with the Medium platform. What is Medium, and why did you decide this was the right platform for the Rainin Foundation to tell its story? And what kinds of criteria should foundations use to determine whether Medium might be right for them?

AFW: We worked with a consultant who understood our requirements and helped us explore different avenues and tools that could help us accomplish our goals. Ultimately, we decided that Medium would be the ideal platform for creating a media-rich presentation while also giving us the opportunity to amplify our voice and access an expanded audience.

Medium is an online publishing platform that was founded in 2012 and has evolved into a community of 30 million monthly users, according to a January 2016 CNN story. It has become such a popular publishing platform that even the White House, Bono and the Gates Foundation use it.

Criteria for whether to use Medium will vary depending on what an organization wants to accomplish. For us, it was important to have a platform that was easy to use and incorporated performance metrics. We didn't want to get bogged down trying to master a new technology. Medium is user-friendly and intuitive, and the visual design closely aligns with the Foundation's desired aesthetics-a clean presentation with plenty of white space. Medium also exposes us to a broader audience, which is hard to get elsewhere, and the platform makes the post shareable. The trade-off is that Medium's standard features, which make it very simple to use, can feel limiting. If you are looking for more customization or want flexibility with typefaces, color and layout, Medium may not be the best choice.

JC: The videos that you produced as part of the Turning Points 2015 progress report were particularly effective in humanizing the foundation. More often we see grantee videos on a foundation site, but you deliberately chose to put your own team on camera. However, being in front of a camera can be intimidating. Can you share with us how you prepared your team for it, and whether you have any advice for foundations around who tells the story, and how to prepare them? And please share any other general advice you have for foundations about how to prepare and use video to share the progress of their work.

AFW: We think it's important to share experiences and stories authentically, and video can be an effective tool to accomplish this objective.

Before we embark on a new project, we develop a creative brief to think about our audience and what we want them to feel or take away from an experience. This brief ensures that stakeholders are all on the same page, which gives the project a strong start and basis for ongoing evaluation.

For our CEO and staff videos, we hired a talented video team who helped everyone feel at ease and made the process fun-this was really important to us. A few days before the shoot, we provided our staff with a couple of questions to answer about a stand-out moment they had in 2015, and then checked in with them before filming to ensure they had an idea of what they wanted to get across. We didn't rehearse with them, nor did we do a lot of takes during filming.

We loved capturing the personalities of our program staff in a more informal way and allowing viewers to hear the story directly from the staff person who experienced it. By being willing to improvise a bit, we were able to capture memorable moments. Of course, our approach to video production changes according to our project goals. Some projects are impromptu, while others may require much more planning.

JC: Are there other foundations or nonprofit organizations that inspire you when it comes to opening up their work in interesting or new ways? Share some examples.

AFW: We're fortunate to work in a field where so many people do fantastic work, take risks and share it with the world. There are numerous resources, and we count the Communications Network as one of the best places to access tools and expertise. We are continually inspired by the work of other foundations and organizations. Some of our favorite sources for inspiration include the James Irvine Foundation; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; the Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund; The San Francisco Foundation; the Robin Hood Foundation; and many, many others. We often reach out to foundations for referrals and learn about their approach to a project, the challenges they encountered, and their overall experience. We want to especially thank Daniel Silverman at the James Irvine Foundation. He's been so gracious with his time and advice, no matter how many times we contact him.

JC: You spoke about performance metrics earlier. What has your audience response been like for both the video and Medium? And how are you measuring their impact?

AFW: The response has been positive. We have surpassed 5,000 video views, which is a strong showing relative to our target audience. Last year for the Medium post, our goal was to engage 12% of our email list. We surpassed this number, quadrupling our goal. This year, we're hitting our targets for views and interaction, and anticipate that the numbers will continue to increase throughout the year, as they did in 2015. It's interesting to note, however, that the videos are garnering more attention than the Medium post, which is something we'll take into account in our planning for the next end-of-year report.

We're always looking to strengthen how we measure impact. For this project, we analyze how people engage with the information on our website, third party websites (Vimeo and Medium) and social media. We look at responses and comments, viewing and reading times, and shares. One big takeaway for us has been the need to continually promote the report and videos in the foundation's communications, staff email signatures, and by leveraging and repurposing the content in creative ways.

JC: Will this be the framework you use for your 2016 Year in Review, or do you have something new and "cutting edge" you're considering?

AFW: We're not locked into a specific framework. Like all of our projects, we will reflect and ask ourselves, "Is this still working? What can we do better? What did we learn?"...so stay tuned.

Glasspockets Find: The Lumina Foundation's Annual Report
July 23, 2014

(Eliza Smith is the Special Projects Associate for Glasspockets at the Foundation Center-San Francisco.)

6a00e54efc2f80883301a511bd210d970cThe Lumina Foundation, an educational achievement-focused philanthropy, has set an ambitious goal: they want to leverage their "outcomes-based approach" to increase "the proportion of Americans with high quality degrees, certificates, and other credentials to 60 percent by 2025."

Thanks to the clarity and specificity of the goal, as I read through the Foundation's annual report, A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, I started to see Goal 2025 as a truly achievable milestone. The Foundation has been issuing Stronger Nation since 2009. While it presents a great number of statistics, it's surprisingly accessible. This is due in great part to its design:  which manages to be data-rich yet still retain a feeling of accessibility and flow.  

The Foundation has been issuing Stronger Nation since 2009. While it presents a great number of statistics, it's surprisingly accessible. This is due in great part to its design:  which manages to be data-rich yet still retain a feeling of accessibility and flow.

Rather than begin with a letter from leadership, the introduction begins with a compelling graphic "tracking the trend" of the rising percentage of the population that has earned at least an associate's degree. The graphic charts the upswing here, rising from  37.9 percent of the population that met this achievement level in 2008  to 2012, with 39.4 percent of the population  attaining a degree. Yes, the increments are small, but the increase each year is constant and encouraging.

Lumina-report-2014-07
Read the report»
What may be most helpful to those interested in regional trends and community needs is that the report then outlines each state's progress in the area of higher education attainment. There is a summary, followed by  graphics that demonstrate the state's progress towards Goal 2025. Pie charts offer percentages of the population with educational levels ranging from "less than ninth grade" to "graduate or professional degree." There's a breakdown of these statistics across specific population groups.. There's also a graph illustrating the path to Goal 2025 attainment. They even breakdown degree achievement by county. Everything is clear, concise, and quite convincing.

Yes, Goal 2025 is ambitious. But the Lumina Foundation is demonstrating a commitment to transparency practices by openly sharing the progress of its goal, as well as its obstacles, incremental achievements, and  next steps. Lumina's annual report is the gateway to understanding how they intend to achieve Goal 2025 and provides a framework for others to consider when grappling with how to measure progress toward philanthropic goals.​

-- Eliza Smith

Glasspockets Find: 2014 Gates Annual Letter
January 29, 2014

(Mark Foley is Associates Program manager at the Foundation Center’s Washington, DC, office.)

BillGatesphoto“By almost any measure, the world is better than it has ever been. People are living longer, healthier lives. Many nations that were aid recipients are now self-sufficient. You might think that such striking progress would be widely celebrated, but in fact, Melinda and I are struck by how many people think the world is getting worse. The belief that the world can’t solve extreme poverty and disease isn’t just mistaken. It is harmful. That’s why in this year’s letter we take apart some of the myths that slow down the work. The next time you hear these myths, we hope you will do the same.”

-- Bill Gates, from the 2014 Gates Annual Letter, 3 Myths that Block Progress for the Poor

We all have those days when a generous dose of optimism can improve our outlook and make us feel that change for the better is possible. This is the just the kind of boost I received after reading the 2014 Annual Letter from Bill and Melinda Gates.

The challenge of this year’s letter is to break down 3 Myths that Block Progress for the Poor:

  • Myth One: Poor countries are doomed to stay poor
  • Myth Two: Foreign aid is a big waste
  • Myth Three: Saving lives leads to overpopulation
“Above all, I hope we can stop discussing whether aid works and spend more time talking about how it can work better.”

Bill and Melinda Gates take on each of these myths and provide a convincing set of arguments to debunk them. Their point is not to sugarcoat the hard work that still must be done, step by incremental step, but to dispel the harmful, self-perpetuating, effects of these myths as impediments to progress. They challenge the stereotypes that too many of us hold when we think—if we think—about global poverty. Bill Gates wants to remove, as much as possible, the general sense of despair that many use as an excuse not to act at all: “Above all, I hope we can stop discussing whether aid works and spend more time talking about how it can work better.”

The Gates Annual Letter is addressed to civil society as a whole—particularly in the “high-income” countries—and explicitly sets out to change the conversation on foreign aid. By being transparent about challenges the Gates Foundation is facing in broadening support for foreign aid, the Annual Letter aims to make their goals and motivations clear, while inspiring others to join their cause. Bill and Melinda Gates’ openness to acknowledge preconceptions about foreign aid also invites more people into the conversation, rather than creating a silo of people who already agree with the Foundation’s approach to improving global health and development.

As one might expect from Gates, the letter is presented in an interactive, engaging format, full of videos, graphics and survey questions that draw you in and encourage you to respond positively. Go on and give it a look—and share your thoughts and comments with your Glasspockets community.

-- Mark Foley

Glasspockets Find: The James Irvine Foundation's 2012 Annual Report Highlights Engagement
August 1, 2013

Irvine-logoThe James Irvine Foundation just released its 2012 Annual Report. The report continues the tradition it began with its previous reports by also serving as a performance assessment for the overall work of the foundation.   

James E. Canales highlights engagement as central to this year’s report and a driver for their grantmaking in 2012. “When people engage in their communities, in their work, in their state, good things can happen. At The James Irvine Foundation, where our mission is to expand opportunity for the people of California, this idea of engagement – and working to improve Californians’ prospects to engage – has often been core to our work, no matter the program area. This seemed more so than ever in 2012, during our 75th anniversary as a foundation.”

As in prior years, this year’s report is entirely online allowing readers to “engage” actively with the content. The report features an Introduction as well as four distinct areas: Program Impact, Leadership, Finance and Organization, and 2012 Grantmaking. The report makes great use of infographic and data visualization displays by organizing information into easily digested graphics throughout all of the areas and can serve as a helpful example of how to present investment returns, staff and board demographics, program impact data, anniversary content, and social network statistics. Engage with the Irvine Foundation's 2012 Annual Report online.

The James Irvine Foundation just released its 2012 Annual Report. The report continues the tradition it began with its previous reports by also serving as a performance assessment for the overall work of the foundation.   

James E. Canales highlights engagement as central to this year’s report and a driver for their grantmaking in 2012. “When people engage in their communities, in their work, in their state, good things can happen. At The James Irvine Foundation, where our mission is to expand opportunity for the people of California, this idea of engagement – and working to improve Californians’ prospects to engage – has often been core to our work, no matter the program area. This seemed more so than ever in 2012, during our 75th anniversary as a foundation.”

As in prior years, this year’s report is entirely online allowing readers to “engage” actively with the content. The report features an Introduction as well as four distinct areas: Program Impact, Leadership, Finance and Organization, and 2012 Grantmaking. The report makes great use of infographic and data visualization displays by organizing information into easily digested graphics throughout all of the areas and can serve as a helpful example of how to present investment returns, staff and board demographics, program impact data[JC1] , anniversary content, and social network statistics.  Engage with the Irvine Foundation's 2012 Annual Report online.


 [JC1]Natasha, can you please hyperlink each of these things I’m mentioning so it jumps to the right part of the annual report for each of these.  Let me know if you have trouble finding any of them.

Glasspockets Find: 2012 Joyce Foundation Annual Report
June 3, 2013

"Replicating success—using the wheels we have instead of inventing new ones—...requires the constant flow of information through multiple channels."

So says Ellen Alberding, president and board member of the Joyce Foundation, in her letter inviting us to read more about the foundation’s work in its new 2012 Annual Report. The statement nicely underscores the importance of knowledge sharing in a field built on experimenting with new approaches and solutions.

In our work on Glasspockets we are always looking for real life examples from the field of how greater transparency and accountability serve to benefit foundations, and by extension, the greater good. Ms. Alberding lists four ways that informed research serves the foundation: it keeps the foundation connected to the big picture; it provides necessary feedback and direction; it raises questions that suggest new approaches to its work; and it challenges its preconceived notions.

Joyce Foundation 2012 Annual Report

The Joyce Foundation’s annual report opens with an easy-to-like "We Hear You" infographic that others might want to adapt. No need to keep reinventing the wheel! The issues of interest to the Joyce Foundation affect us all and are far too big for any one organization to address. This report reminds us of this obvious truth that is sometimes hiding in plain sight.

-- Mark Foley

Taking the Foundation Annual Report Exercise to the Next Level: Blue Shield of California Foundation’s Experience
September 12, 2012

(Peter Long, Ph.D. is the President of Blue Shield of California Foundation and Christine Maulhardt is its Communications Manager.)

Peter LongChristine Maulhardt

A strange thing happened this year when we kicked off planning for our new annual report - everyone got excited. In the past, annual report planning generated multiple meetings and produced groans around the office. Repackaging numbers and grant descriptions and flattening our programs, grantees, and impact into two dimensions was never a popular exercise. We can all agree that making audited financial statements have pizzazz is nearly impossible. Annual reports should do more than simply report numbers of grants, dollars provided, and laundry lists of accomplishments. Annual reports should share the data, stories, and vision of an organization.

At Blue Shield of California Foundation, we use our annual report to simultaneously reflect on our work and share our vision for the future. While we’re doing these things, we also want our viewers to have a unique experience. This is why we’ve transitioned from a traditional print annual report to online interactive reports. Not only are we saving trees and embracing technology, we’re also attempting to draw our audiences into an experience that will stay with them much longer. By using pictures, videos, interactive maps, and links, we want viewers to get a holistic and authentic look at what we do and understand why we do it.

2011 Annual ReportToo often, foundations present metrics and data and use jargon to explain our work. For foundation staff, it can seem normal to talk about a 57 percent increase in organizational capacity and a 114 percent return on investment. These data are impressive when given in the context of grant investments, yet remain abstract to the vast majority of people. Data are only numbers until you provide meaning and context. As part of our transparency, foundations need to be authentic and accessible. Grant dollars and evaluation statistics are clearer when they are supported by the stories of people and communities.

Our goal for this year’s annual report was to turn the abstract into the authentic. We used photos to put a face to the hundreds of thousands of Californians who gained health care coverage over the year. We showed the health center, school, and community organization staff collaborating to prevent violence in their community. And we showed how a victim of domestic violence regained her confidence and her community. Working in the domestic violence and health care fields can create challenges to authenticity when telling the stories of those benefitting from our funding. Privacy of service recipients is both a legal and safety issue for our grantees (community health centers and domestic violence service providers). In our annual report we created characters that are composites of the clients served by these organizations every day. These composites were developed in consultation with our program staff who, through site visits, meetings, and long-standing relationships with grantees, have a deep understanding of the realities of our clients in a wide array of communities. Some may find irony in creating authenticity through made-up characters, but protecting individuals’ privacy and safety is our utmost concern.

Most importantly, our annual report looked at the experiences of an entire community and showed how our foundation is tackling a slice of their reality. Communities have needs that are bigger and different than what one foundation’s theory of change can accomplish. Foundations must be willing to be part of an eco-system that is dynamic and accept that grants will have successes and challenges that you may never foresee. We put forth a story of a community in 2015 - a date that is just around the corner. Inevitably the story will change between now and then, but we felt that was a risk worth taking to show our vision.

Transparency isn't a once a year exercise accomplished by an annual report. Stories and numbers of impact should be assessed impartially and shared regularly. Social media has helped our foundation give life to data for real-time impact. This allows us to make our annual report a narrative that is more memorable and focuses attention on the broader vision of our organization. Storytelling unlocks the meaning of data and keeps the focus on the end result - how foundations can improve lives and communities.

-- Peter Long & Christine Maulhardt

Glasspockets Find: Transparency and Impact Reporting at the James Irvine Foundation
August 23, 2012

The James Irvine FoundationThe James Irvine Foundation recently published its new 2011 Performance Report. This takes the ritual of the Annual Report to the next level both technologically and conceptually, as the Irvine Foundation has added the discipline of annually reporting on its overall foundation performance as part of the process of compiling the data that comprise its annual report.

"This online publication represents the latest evolution in our approach to reporting on our impact. While it includes many of the features of a traditional foundation annual report, our aim is to give viewers a deeper look at the Foundation’s progress toward its long-term goals. And this year we’re experimenting with a new online format to make it more inviting and accessible" says Daniel Silverman, Communications Director at Irvine.

The online report features an Introduction as well as four distinct areas: Program Impact, Leadership, Finance and Organization, and 2011 Grantmaking. The report makes great use of infographic and data visualization displays by organizing information into easily digested graphics throughout all of the areas. Take a look at Irvine Foundation's 2011 Performance Report online.

-- Natasha Isajlovic-Terry

Glasspockets Find: Documenting a Transparent End to The Atlantic Philanthropies
April 23, 2012

When the board of The Atlantic Philanthropies voted in 2001 to end the foundation’s active grantmaking in 2016 and then close its doors by 2020, it became the largest endowed institution ever to do so.  Atlantic-logo-200The decision meshed well with the philosophy of the foundation’s founder.  To spend down the multi-billion-dollar endowment of The Atlantic Philanthropies within a fixed period of time concurred with Charles F. Feeney’s personal commitment to what he called Giving While Living.  (Mr. Feeney will be nearly 90 years old at the end of 2020.)

Referring to the better-known Giving Pledge in correspondence to Bill Gates in early 2011, Mr. Feeney wrote:

“I cannot think of a more personally rewarding and appropriate use of wealth than to give while one is living—to personally devote oneself to meaningful efforts to improve the human condition.  More importantly, today’s needs are so great and varied that intelligent philanthropic support and positive interventions can have greater value and impact today than if they are delayed.”

Mr. Feeney’s foundation has provided Duke University with a grant to fund Winding Down The Atlantic Philanthropies.  The second in this planned series of reports was released in February.  Its subtitle, 2009-2010: Beginning the Endgame, implies that a shift in focus has arrived, nearly a decade after the board’s historic decision.  The report follows the staff’s attempts to begin “an orderly process to ‘imagine the end of Atlantic’.”  As a tool of transparency, the report provides an inside look into the thinking underway.  It also chronicles the challenges and opportunities presented within this context for two of Atlantic’s major programs—Children & Youth in the United States and Population Health in Viet Nam.

Atlantic Philanthropies has an excellent What We’re Learning section that offers many valuable insights into its work that can be used by others in the field.  In addition to the new report, its predecessor in the Winding Down series, The First Eight Years: 2001-2009, is available for free download or to view.

-- Mark Foley

Creating a Video Annual Report: The Mitchell Kapor Foundation's Experience
April 2, 2012

(Cedric Brown is Chief Executive Officer of Mitchell Kapor Foundation)

Cedric BrownAs much as I hate to admit it, I rarely spend more than 30 seconds looking at annual reports. I'm usually attracted to the paper, design, or lead stories, but don't really delve into the sometimes-substantial reading required to make it through one of these tomes. And who has time? I'm not sure if there's a general trend toward simplification of such publications, but that's what I had in mind in late 2010 when starting to consider a format for the Kapor Foundation's first annual report

Given that we're a small family foundation interested in the intersection of social justice and tech, I wanted to use a tack that would reflect our values, style, and general approach to work. And I especially wanted it to be simple to digest. Daniel Olias Silverman, the Irvine Foundation's fantastic director of communications, advised me that the world is moving to video. And so move we did.

Mitchell Kapor FoundationWorking with the Kapor Center's in-house production team, we scripted brief highlights from the Foundation's areas of work. I wanted each of our staff members and the Kapors themselves to have a role, giving voice to our priorities and accomplishments. This vision was met with a little skepticism and camera shyness. But on the day of the shoot, everyone came through like pros - well, maybe not, but at least our natural selves shone through. We left the footage in the hands of the director, Trevor Parham, who added photos and animation to bring our words and work to life.

When we distributed the video through emailing it and posting it on our website's home page, I hadn't expected to get the kind of positive, "WOW!" reviews that came back to us.  Some of our community partners expressed appreciation for getting the pithy information in an entertaining format (and a little hip hop  beat in the background never hurts). Of course, we didn't win any awards or such, but we accomplished my ultimate goal of explaining what the Foundation does in a way that would be widely and clearly understood. The video format also allows us to be (a certain kind of) green by minimizing the use of paper, to save production money, and perhaps best of all, to have almost three times the distributive reach that we would've had strictly through our mailing list!

So this year, we've taken it a step further. No animation against a green screen this time, but we again aimed to deliver the highlights of our efforts in a concise way, using a knockoff of an increasingly popular format. Check it out.

Watch the video »

I'm now a believer that video is indeed the way to go. If you're thinking about doing the same, I'd advise a few practical things:

  1. Write a narrative that outlines your organization's mission and framework;
  2. Use video or photos of grant recipients and partners in action to help tell your story; and perhaps most importantly,
  3. Videos need not be overly fancy or polished. While we at the Kapor Foundation benefit from an incredibly talented in-house team, I've actually seen interesting work done with flip cam footage and freeware. Just be neat (aesthetically) and tell a good story!

Looking forward to seeing your work next year!

-- Cedric Brown

About Transparency Talk

  • Transparency Talk, the Glasspockets blog, is a platform for candid and constructive conversation about foundation transparency and accountability. In this space, Foundation Center highlights strategies, findings, and best practices on the web and in foundations–illuminating the importance of having "glass pockets."

    The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation Center.

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