If you ask any non-profit organisation if they are transparent, the answer is invariably “yes, of course!”. And in a very narrow manner, that may be true. Annual plans, annual reports and financial reports are usually visible on the company website. But if you were to believe published plans and reports, there would be no organisation whatsoever with dirty laundry. And if you take your own organisation as an example, you will know this to be false.
So let’s take a look for a moment what it means to be transparent.
The crucial realisation is that transparency is not about what you do in your business, but about how you do business. It is easy to communicate about your vision, your mission and your product. It is easy, because communicating about these things is part (or should be) of your daily work. But transparency demands more. It demands that you not only demonstrate what you do, but explain why you did it in a particular way. And in this explanation, you have an opportunity for accountability.
Talking about how you do business has a different target audience than the ones which want to hear about what you do for a business. In effect, your main audience will be those people who know your business best: your peers and your donors. And they know quite well what the pitfalls and weaknesses of your organisation are – you will be far better off by telling them yourself, and the trust in your brand will grow and grow.
Bad news is good news.
But, “wait”, you say, “there are some things I really don’t want to say out loud!”. Well, that’s possible I suppose. But ask yourself: why are those things unrecountable? Are there things about how you do business that nobody is supposed to know? As the ancient wisdom goes, if you don’t want anybody to find out, you probably shouldn’t have done it in the first place. This means that truly adhering to transparency has consequences for your daily actions, so that everything you do can stand the light of day. In the end, that will pay off personally as well as professionally.