Meet Our New GlassPockets Foundation: An Interview with Caroline Kronley, President, Tinker Foundation

Kronley 2019

Caroline Kronley

This post is part of our "Road to 100 & Beyond" series, in which we are featuring the foundations that have joined us in building a movement for transparency that now surpasses 100 foundations publicly participating in the "Who Has GlassPockets?" self-assessment. This blog series highlights reflections on why transparency is important, how openness evolves inside foundations over time, helpful examples, and lessons learned.

For more than sixty years, the Tinker Foundation has promoted economic and social development in Latin America by supporting “people, projects, and ideas.”

"Tinker encourages comparative and collaborative work and supports grantees to learn from others’ experiences."

Tinker realizes its mission by providing funding to civil society organizations—among them nonprofit entities, research institutes, and universities—working to address the region’s most pressing challenges. The organizations Tinker supports use the foundation’s resources to test promising ideas, extend the impact of proven models, and bring together stakeholders to solve problems in new ways.

As one of a small number of private foundations focused on the entire region, Tinker believes it has a particular responsibility and opportunity to support the exchange of knowledge and approaches within and beyond Latin America. For that reason, Tinker encourages comparative and collaborative work and supports grantees to learn from others’ experiences.

Tinker Foundation is among our newest GlassPockets participants. In this interview with GlassPockets’ Janet Camarena, Caroline Kronley, President of the Tinker Foundation, explains why transparency is central to its philanthropic efforts.

GlassPockets: The world around us has changed very rapidly in the last few weeks, and much of what is happening in philanthropy today is in response to the unfolding coronavirus crisis. Here at GlassPockets we have been looking at how the scale of this crisis is heightening the importance of being a transparent and flexible funding partner. How is Tinker responding to this unprecedented situation?

Caroline Kronley: Our first priority has been to check in with and seek to support our grantees and partners. Many are adapting to all the familiar challenges of remote work and increased family responsibilities, while also mobilizing in quite creative and resourceful ways to fight COVID-19. We know that this global crisis will play out over a number of months in Latin America and will likely hit vulnerable communities particularly hard. With that in mind, we are exploring specific grantmaking opportunities that build on the work we are already supporting in the region, such as efforts to support the protection and integration of Venezuelan refugees. 

GP: One of the biggest barriers we encounter when it comes to foundations embracing a more transparent approach is a lack of understanding of the return on the investment of time and effort.  Can you share with us how openness and transparency have played a role in advancing Tinker’s philanthropic objectives?

CK: For Tinker, investing in transparency is a matter of both pragmatism and values. Pragmatism because as a foundation with a total of five staff and headquarters in New York, we need to be as clear as possible about the work we do and how we do it in order to engage prospective partners and collaborators from Latin America. The more we can show the kinds of projects we fund, the impact we’re having, the learning we’re generating, the better for attracting compatible partners. But it’s also a matter of values: much of our work in the Democratic Governance space, for example, focuses on promoting transparency and accountability of institutions in Latin America. It’s only right for us to embody those same commitments in our own organization.

"The more we can show the kinds of projects we fund, the impact we’re having, the learning we’re generating, the better for attracting compatible partners."

GP: How did the GlassPockets self-assessment process help you improve or better understand Tinker's level of transparency, and why should your peers participate?

CK: In January, we launched a new website with the goals of better communicating about the foundation and creating a platform to share the work of our grantees. In leading the design, my colleagues Meg Cushing and Angelina Pienczykowski used the GlassPockets criteria as a roadmap to help determine which transparency elements would be most valuable to our users; over time we expect to add more. We found the criteria for the “Advanced” level quite reasonable with the right planning and effort.

GP: Your commitment to openness and transparency extends to having translations of your website available in Spanish and Portuguese, which seems appropriate for a funder like Tinker that works in Latin America. Yet, translated foundation websites are not something we see that often. Can you reflect on why that might be and how having the translated content has been important to your work? And is there other new content you added with your redesigned website last year that has proved to be helpful to your stakeholders?

CK: Having the most important content in Spanish and Portuguese on our new website was a make-or-break design principle for us. As a U.S.-based foundation working in Latin America, we felt it sent an important signal to communicate in all three languages. More importantly, though, we wanted to ensure that as many prospective partners could use the site as possible; again, we’re trying to reach the organizations and leaders doing the most significant work in the region, not just those with working knowledge of English.

At the same time, having all three languages on the website required significant investment from Tinker and remains a work in progress. I imagine that could be a barrier for many foundations that work internationally. While members of our team have strong language skills, we rely on talented translators to ensure we’re communicating effectively and sensitively with our diverse audience.

GP: Since ideally, transparency is always evolving and there is always more that can be shared, what are some of your aspirations for how Tinker Foundation will continue to open up its work in new ways in the future?

CK: One of our institutional goals for this year is to strengthen our approach to monitoring, learning, and evaluation. Over time, we hope to have more to share about the impact we’re contributing to through the incredible work of our grantees.


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