GuideStar International's Blog

March 10, 2011

Transparency for a Rainy Day

Filed under: Access to information,CSO reporting,Philanthropy,Transparency — guidestarinternational @ 09:41
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by Benny Shlesinger, Product Manager at NPTech GuideStar Israel. Read the post in Hebrew on the NPTech blog.

In Israel demands have been made for the establishment of an investigative committee to examine the funding sources of five non-profit organizations affiliated with the Israeli political left wing, amongst them are: B’TselemAdalah, and Yesh Din. Without entering into a political debate about this story, there was one interesting part of this story that caught my attention. All of the organizations’ initial reaction was to say “We are transparent”.

The response of the organizations point to the value of transparency in the eyes of the public, and also reflects the many public debates, talk shows and articles that circulate within NPO networks. I believe that while the response of the organizations is “We are transparent”, the sub text is a bit different. These organisations have actually said “We have nothing to hide. We pride ourselves in our conduct. If our activities were offensive:

a. it is because we were not ready to reveal everything; or

b. anyone could have found information about the organisation both before and after the accusations

The organizations not only make those two statements but also say that they can prove it.

However, it is important for nonprofits to remember that such an answer cannot be given without the proper preparations. When accused not every NPO can suddenly claim – “We are transparent” since they should be exhibiting transparent behavior before hand and over time. Transparency supports the organization’s day to day work with donors, volunteers and anyone that is interested in the organization. However, when the NPO is in the middle of a public debate – there is no substitute for transparent conduct over time.

So how should NPOs prepare for the day they may become the focus of public debate?

1. Publicise reports on the organization’s website. The most inspiring example I saw of this (and for full disclosure,  I have more than just sympathy for public transparency in this case, but also for the football club behind it) is the Hapoel Tel Aviv Education and Social Project. Visit the organization’s transparency page and see for yourself. To reveal information such as salaries and protocols requires courage.
2. The GuideStar Israel website (what else?): one example of the many great transparent profiles on GuideStar Israel is that by Ofanim – for the promotion of children and young people in Israel.

There are several advantages in using GuideStar to show transparency of the organization:

a. Reliability: information presented on GuideStar Israel was obtained directly from the government and is signed by the National Registrar of Non-Profit Associations. It is not published by the NPO, but an objective “third party”. Once the NPO also publishes its information to supplement the government information, and takes full responsibility there is little room for doubt.
b. The government information is already there, even before the NPO has registered, and the information is also updated automatically.
c. Standard structure: the reader receives all the information in a standard format, which makes it easy to read and compare with different organizations.

The conclusion I arrived at following the response of these organizations is that NPOs need to better prepare in advance for the time when they will have to be accountable to the public, the regulator,  the donor or to anyone else. It is therefore desirable for an NPO to have such information available on their website and of course ensure transparency by having a well written and complete GuideStar Israel profile.

August 4, 2010

GuideStar Israel launched!

JERUSALEM (3rd August 2010) GuideStar Israel (www.guidestar.org.il), an online database aimed at making Israeli nonprofit organisations more transparent was launched on Tuesday during a press conference at the Ministry of Justice in Jerusalem. For the first time, financial and operational information on Israeli non-profit organisations (NPOs), numbering some 29,000, has been made transparent to the public online. The GuideStar Israel portal, which is in Hebrew, Arabic and English, lists each nonprofit organisation registered with the National Registrar of Non-profit Organizations in Israel.

The combination of this official information, approved by the Registrar, together with more in-depth information provided by the NPOs themselves, creates the most comprehensive and qualitative database of nonprofit organisations in Israel. It also provides an Internet presence to all non-profit organisations in Israel, since it includes the country’s smallest NPOs that have not been online before.

GuideStar Israel is a joint nonprofit project of the Ministry of Justice, Yad Hanadiv and JDC Israel, and is operated by NPTech – Technologies for Nonprofit Organizations Ltd. (CPB). NPTech is a public benefit company that helps nonprofit organisations (NPOs) in Israel to utilise information communications technology to better reach their goals. It operates for the benefit of the philanthropic sector, in the belief that public transparency is important for the development of the Israeli NPO sector.

Nonprofit inclusion and public access to the website is free. Anyone interested in the nonprofit sector, including individual and institutional donors, volunteers and the general public can use GuideStar Israel to find official information reported to the Registrar about the activities of each non-profit organisation operating in Israel.

GuideStar Israel has been established in full collaboration with GuideStar International (GSI). GSI seeks to illuminate the work of civil society organisations across borders and facilitate better communication among NPOs, donors and related stakeholders. Read the entire press release.

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