JRS was certified last week by the Foundation Center’s Glass Pockets initiative to promote transparency of private U.S. foundations in an online world. The certification reflects that the JRS Biodiversity Foundation is meeting (or beating) the highest recognized standard for transparency for grant-making foundations. By searching our website or looking at the JRS Glass Pockets Profile, you can find our audited financial statements, tax returns, bylaws, policies, grant-making history and more.
Transparency was easy going for JRS though we needed to build the new website, the grant pages, develop new policies, and expand our online information. The wind in our sails is our mission to increase access to data and information to empower biodiversity’s stakeholders with knowledge for conservation and sustainability. Glass Pockets inspires us to make our own data accessible to empower our own stakeholders to hold us accountable to our mission and to our privilege to be a non-profit, tax-exempt organization. We hold a public trust and seek to earn the public’s trust.
Transparency helps us to be better listeners, to get feedback from grantees and non-grantees, and to be sure that our operations and financial management meet high professional standards. Private foundations can easily be more opaque than public corporations and governments but earning trust gives us our “philanthropic freedom” to innovate more and bear more risk than other public and private institutions.
Where do we go from here? The most frequent question among our stakeholders is “how do I get a grant from JRS?” The final test of transparency for us is to express our strategy, our funding priorities, our budget and our grant selection process on an annual basis in a way that can largely answer that question. That’s a challenge for foundations as our budgets, funding priorities, and the competition among grant proposals can be a moving target in the course of a year. Keeping the “net” for funding ideas wider than our focus helps to inform learning, future priorities, and adaptability. Still, we can do better and we will do so over the next twelve months.