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Advancing Social Media Measurement for Foundations: A Re-Cap (Part One)
May 29, 2013

(Beth Kanter is a Master Trainer and the author of Beth's Blog, one of the longest running and most popular blogs for nonprofits, and co-author of the highly acclaimed book, The Networked Nonprofit, published by J. Wiley in 2010, and its new follow-up, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, published in 2013 by J. Wiley.)

Kanter-100Last month, I was invited to participate in a meeting organized by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation called Advancing Social Media Measurement for Foundations where I presented on the State of Nonprofit Social Media Measurement. The participants were a cross-disciplinary group and included people who work at different foundations in the areas of evaluation, communication, social media, and programs as well as people who work for nonprofits and as consultants who work in evaluation, social media, network analysis, data scientists, and others.

To be transparent means that a foundation is open, accountable, and honest with its stakeholders and the public. Transparency exists to a lesser or greater extent in all organizations. Greater transparency is a good thing, not just because it is morally correct, but because it can provide measurable benefits.

We had two working sessions where we focused on defining outcomes, strategies, key performance metrics, and measurement methods for five outcome areas that may be common to many foundation’s communication’s strategies including transparency –a topic that KD Paine and I devoted an entire chapter to in our book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit.

Transparency is a developing practice for nonprofits and their funders, and the field of measurement of transparency for foundations and nonprofits is embryonic. To be transparent means that a foundation is open, accountable, and honest with its stakeholders and the public. Transparency exists to a lesser or greater extent in all organizations. Greater transparency is a good thing, not just because it is morally correct, but because it can provide measurable benefits.

Measureable Benefits of Transparency
Transparency helps an organization by engaging its audiences and by speeding the processes of learning and growing. Transparency helps foundation programs improve in ways they might not otherwise. Two of transparency’s readily measureable benefits are increased efficiency, and increases in the stakeholder perceptions of trust, commitment and satisfaction.

Increased efficiency: Transparency makes organizations more efficient because it removes the gatekeeping function, which not only takes extra time, but can be an exhausting way to work. When foundations are working transparently, problems are easier to solve, questions are easier to answer, and stakeholder’s needs are met more quickly.

Increased trust, satisfaction, and commitment:  Dr. Brad Rawlins’ research has demonstrated that increased organizational transparency is directly tied to increases in trust, credibility, and satisfaction among the organization’s stakeholders. He sees a key benefit of transparency as, “enhancing the ethical nature of organizations in two ways: first, it holds organizations accountable for their actions and policies; and second, it respects the autonomy and reasoning ability of individuals who deserve to have access to information that might affect their position.”  (Rawlins is the Dean of the Communications Department at Arkansas State University)

Now that we have defined what working transparently means and the benefits, what is the method for measuring it? 

In the second part of my post tomorrow, I will outline the best approaches to measuring the value of transparency to your foundation.

--Beth Kanter

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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.

    Questions and comments may be
    directed to:

    Janet Camarena
    Director, Transparency Initiatives
    Foundation Center

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