Communities in crisis raise the stakes for sector-wide transparency and information sharing
The inequality and anti-corruption riots of 2019 have taken a dangerous toll on the people of Haiti. Mass demonstrations and violent unrest have resulted in an emerging humanitarian crisis that has left an already-fragile country with acute shortages of food, water, and access to healthcare. There is a great deal of concern for the safety and well-being of all currently in Haiti, particularly those who are most vulnerable. The ongoing violence and unrest will have short, medium, and long-term consequences for the people of Haiti and the social and economic development of their country. In order to effectively support Haiti and the Haitian people during this difficult time, the international donor, foundation, and nonprofit community must adhere to a higher standard for humanitarian assistance.
At Hope for Haiti, one of the ways in which we try to live up to this goal of adhering to high standards is by using external assessment tools to benchmark our efforts. For example, we are proud that our organization attained GuideStar’s Platinum Seal of Transparency and see it as part of our commitment to maintain a strong code of ethics, organizational transparency, and fiscal and programmatic accountability. These are ongoing efforts for our organization that are embedded in our organizational values, and what follows are some of the lessons we have learned that might be helpful for peers and donors alike.
Strong systems for financial transparency and accountability on both sides of the funding process are critical for organizations to achieve their programmatic goals. Donors want to ensure that their contributions to an organization will make a proven impact, and organizations have a responsibility to their funders and to the communities they serve to be transparent on how funds are used. A consistent dedication to transparency will help ensure that donors better understand the work of their partners and help them fund the specific projects and programs they care most about.
Similarly, donors can also help alleviate the burden on applicants and grantees by paying attention to their own communication and applicant outreach efforts. When looking to support organizations in Haiti, foundations should make sure that their application and grants process is transparent, straightforward, and designed to support multi-year requests to maximize long-term impact. This will help ensure that the organizations they decide to fund are using their valuable time as efficiently as possible, particularly in a time of great need (i.e., following a humanitarian crisis). To that end, we recommend the following steps:
- Be transparent about what you want to fund, and why. By clearly listing your desired program areas, locations, and projects on your website and in your application, you will save time for your review committee and for the organizations that are looking for funding. If you work globally, consider the use of translators to offer applicants these guidelines and application submission in the languages used in the countries in which your foundation works. Organizations that don’t share the same priorities or geographic focus will be able to self-select out of the process, and your review committee won’t take time to review an application that isn’t a good fit. Going through the GlassPockets “Steps to Transparency” process will help make sure your foundation is hitting all the correct benchmarks.
- Invest in strategic partnerships, with greater consideration for multi-year funding. This is particularly important in the global context and during a humanitarian crisis. Effective programming requires sustainability; an organization must address the most pressing issues first, then form plans to address long-term goals. Making multi-year commitments gives organizations the assurance they need to make accurate strategic plans, commit to program partners, and ensure sustainable and stable progress. This saves critical staff resources that would otherwise be devoted to an annual application process for programming and communicating impact.
- Require good governance, accountability, and transparency in the organizations you decide to fund. Governance, accountability, and transparency are a two-way street, and partnering with organizations that hold those values in the same high regard will ensure your investment is truly making an impact. Consider investing in capacity building to help organizations of all sizes and their leaders gain valuable expertise to improve their operations and maximize their impact long-term.
To that end, below is a short list of what we have learned that may help other international nonprofits and NGOs:
- Require an external audit and list financials on your website. Each year, Hope for Haiti is externally audited by our audit firm, which examines our financial records, ensures that we are adhering to General Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), and makes recommendations on how we can operate more efficiently. To support transparency, we then post access to our audited financial statements and our annual IRS Tax Filings for the past 10 years on our website where everyone can view them.
- Produce an annual report. To promote accountability to our donors, each year, we release an annual report in print and online that includes data on our key programmatic areas, testimonials of impact from partners and beneficiaries, as well as an overview of the previous year’s financial health.
- Invite independent review from external charity evaluators. We always welcome the review of our work by third-party charity monitoring organizations like GuideStar, Charity Navigator, and Excellence in Giving. We’re proud to hold top ratings across all of these platforms.
By working together for a common cause, sharing a dedication to transparency, and fostering open communication, donors and organizations can more efficiently and effectively work as a team to make a profound impact in the lives of families in Haiti. Together, we can build a better future.