Vikki Spruill on transparency and the power of networks

Vikki Spruill, President and CEO of the Council on Foundations and WINGS board member, gives her take on transparency in the sector, and looks ahead to WINGSForum 2014: The Power of Networks.

spruill_300WINGS: Where does COF stand with the emerging culture of transparency in the sector?

The Council on Foundations has long encouraged appropriate and meaningful efforts by the philanthropic sector to advance transparency.  Our sector – and the Council’s membership – includes broad and diverse organizations and interests, so a single standard of transparency or a strongly prescribed protocol may not be practical or desirable.  We do, however, encourage organizations to shape a framework that is appropriate for them, using research from the field as a guide.  It is important for foundations to establish a culture and expectation of transparency that allows them to (1) advance their missions, (2) manage their programs and relationships, and (3) validate their credibility, integrity and trust among grantees, partners, stakeholder and the public.

In May 2007, the Council released Principles of Accountability for International Philanthropy in collaboration with the European Foundation Centre.  The seven principles in this document provide guidance and support for funders making decisions related to their international missions and offers a framework that could encourage other foundations to pursue international grantmaking.   This project was the result of a two-year collaborative effort of a 14-member EFC-COF working group, comprising foundations and corporate donors of varying philanthropic styles, experience, traditions, asset and expenditure bases, programmatic interests and geographic areas of activity.

WINGS: Any thoughts on the “power of networks”? What do you and COF hope to gain from participating in WINGSForum 2014?

The Council on Foundations staff is very pleased to participate in WINGSForum 2014. I couldn’t be more excited about the theme “power of networks.”  When I came to the Council, I began a long-term effort to build capacity at the Council to make sure that our membership could connect easily to each other in order to advance common efforts. The theme of this year’s WINGSForum aligns perfectly with that thinking, and I am so excited to have the field recognize the importance of working together.

Our effort is organized around facilitating, to the highest degree possible, the free flow of information and innovation to maximize collaboration towards positive social impact. We believe that the whole of philanthropy can be improved by creating a stronger network of action that brings together a wide variety of stakeholders, like foundations, government, business, and multi-lateral institutions. One example of this is our recent work with the Rockefeller Foundation to convene human resource directors and CEOs of foundations to learn about best practices around the globe.

The more we collectively operate as a part of a holistic philanthropic network, the closer we will come to working together to create a just and globally prosperous society.

The WINGSForum 2014 is a perfect setting to build stronger relationships among global networks. We look forward to opportunities to connect funders globally and develop more opportunities for collaboration between our members and funders, public institutions and private entities globally.


Road to Istanbul—A journey through networked philanthropy charts the course of global philanthropy over the days leading up to WINGS Forum 2014: The Power of Networks, where WINGS will launch its new report, “Infrastructure In Focus: A Global Picture of Organisations Serving Philanthropy.” Infrastructure of Philanthropy is one of six event plenaries. Follow on Twitter with #WFnetworks. More WINGS interviews here.

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