Meet Our New GlassPockets Foundation: An interview with Kate Fryberg of New Zealand’s Te Muka Rau Charitable Trust
Kate Frykberg: For us, transparency is simply about being open and honest about who we are, what we do, and how our funds are spent. I would hate people to wonder if we had anything to hide, and I think this does sometimes happen with foundations that are not transparent. Additionally, charitable foundations receive tax benefits, so we need to clearly show that we are using that foregone tax for the public good – and that we have achieved at least as much public good as the government would have done with that tax money.
”If we are being philanthropic, we should be upfront about how we are serving our communities.“
GP: Some assume that transparency is important for larger foundations. Why do you think it's important for smaller foundations as well?
KF: We are a small foundation by New Zealand standards and we are tiny by US standards – but transparency matters whatever the size. If we are lucky enough to live comfortably, we should, I believe, be philanthropic and share some of what we have. And if we are being philanthropic, we should be upfront about how we are serving our communities. Big foundation, small foundation - the concept is the same – it’s just the number of zeros in the dollar figures that are different.
That said, one size does not fit all – so it was important for us that the GlassPockets process did not issue a score that counted against us if we were not sharing all of the indicators. For example, a small foundation like us with no paid staff doesn’t need things like executive compensation processes and whistle blower policies. So transparency needs to be able to be adjusted to fit values, purpose, and size. It’s really just about openness and clarity.
GP: You have lots of experience as a philanthropy consultant and also as the prior Chair of Philanthropy New Zealand. Why is philanthropic transparency important in the New Zealand context?
KF: The New Zealand context is a little different from the United States – for example there is currently no legally required annual payout amount here. I think this makes it all the more important to open up things and be very clear how much is given and how the community is benefiting. Additionally, people here are often a little shy about talking about their giving, so transparency can help normalise philanthropy and build the culture of giving. Finally, unless we are transparent, it is very difficult for the organisations that we might want to support to know about us and decide whether they should try to connect with us. So transparency also helps our core business of funding public good initiatives.
”…with templates like what GlassPockets offers, this stuff isn’t hard to do.“
GP: How did the GlassPockets assessment help you to improve your foundation and its transparency, and why should your peers also participate?
KF: With the help of the GlassPockets team, a New Zealand version of the transparency guidelines and a self-assessment form was created; we went through that first and made quite a few changes to our website as a result. Then we did the US GlassPockets assessment and made a few more changes. But actually both processes were really easy – maybe a day’s work in total to think things through and tweak our website. Of course, the leaner a foundation is, the faster the process. But, I think it’s a good message for peers to hear– with templates like what GlassPockets offers, this stuff isn’t hard to do.
GP: Do you have any examples or anecdotes to share regarding how being a transparent funder has helped you to become more effective in your philanthropy?
KF: I think that being transparent has made it easier for organisations working in the space we fund (social cohesion) to find us, to assess how well our values and work fits theirs and then to connect with us. That said, what helps create effective philanthropy is a much debated question and requires more than transparency alone, but it’s an important piece of the puzzle that helps build the field as a whole.
GP: Since transparency is always evolving, what are some of your hopes for how you continue to evolve your openness in the future?
KF: We value continual learning and I think the next thing we will prioritize is to add a place to share what we are learning. For example, we are a bicultural funder and half our trustees are Māori (indigenous) – there may be something we can share about this journey. On the GlassPockets assessment there is an item called “knowledge centre” – which sounds a bit grand for us - but actually no matter what size we are, we have lessons and learnings to share. So ticking off the knowledge centre box by sharing our learnings will probably be our next step.