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Transparent Philanthropy and the Foundation Center

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Over the past few months, the US-based Foundation Center has taken some excellent steps towards linking the transparency of philanthropic organisations with the International Aid Transparency Initiative.

The Foundation Center, recognized as the leading source of information about philanthropy worldwide,  already hosts a reporting system, eGrant, which enables foundations (at the moment almost 600) to easily share data on their grants. As well as offering interactive mapping tools to showcase grant makers’ activities, the eGrant Reporting Program enables foundations and other grant makers to report information on their grants electronically and on a frequent basis.

Furthermore, grant makers now have the option to have their information on grants pulled directly from their websites or feeds, through Grantsfire and its innovative hGrant format. This data is then made available to the public through an RSS feed.

Recently, the Foundation Center received a grant from the Hewlett Foundation (already a signatory to IATI) to develop a common reporting standard with IATI to foster greater transparency and accountability, and provide leaders with the information resources they need to be more strategic, purposeful, and effective in their work.” [i]

We at aidinfo welcome this exciting work between the Foundation Center and Hewlett. As the International Aid Transparency Initiative moves towards supplying more detailed, timely, accessible and comparable information on aid from traditional aid donors, it is also vital that we harness the information on flows coming from outside the “traditional” aid world.

In 2008, and estimated $4.6 billion granted from US Foundations benefited developing countries, out of the $7  billion in overall international giving[ii], compared to the 2008 global Official Development Assistance (ODA) figure of $119.8 billion. This is an incredibly significant contribution.

If some of this information can be captured through IATI, alongside that of government donors and others, it will make a considerable impact on the transparency of information available on resources going into developing countries. More complete information on funds flowing into developing countries will enable:

  • An understanding of the gaps and duplication of funding;
  • More collaboration and information sharing between foundations, NGOs, traditional and other donors who wish to run effective projects;
  • Better oversight of all available funds and areas of need by developing country governments and ministries.

aidinfo share in the Foundation Center’s optimism that this work has “immense potential in saving vital time and money, reducing duplication of effort, and allowing leaders to effectively leverage funding to do the most good.”[iii]

For more information on the Foundation Center, visit http://foundationcenter.org. You can also check out www.glasspockets.org, the Foundation Center’s website dedicated to transparency and accountability in philanthropy.

Many thanks go to Vanessa Schnaidt and Jeff Falkenstein of the Foundation Center for their collaboration on this blog.


[i] Foundation Center (2010), Proposal Summary from Grant Proposal to the Hewlett Foundation Global Development Program

[ii] Foundation Center (2010), N.B. These figures include funding directly to developing countries, to third-party countries for work benefiting developing countries, and the U.S.-based international programs for work benefiting developing countries.

[iii] Foundation Center (2010), Proposal Summary from Grant Proposal to the Hewlett Foundation Global Development Program

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