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How NGOs Can Survive in the Age of Distrust

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By Jane McDonald, July 17, 2018

For the fourth year in a row, Transparify—an initiative that assigns global ratings of financial transparency to think tanks and policy-driven non-profits—has given the International Institute for Sustainable Development the highest possible marks for financial disclosure.

That’s a tremendous shout-out to IISD’s character as we prepare to celebrate significant birthdays. This year, IISD Experimental Lakes Area turns 50, while our larger organization crosses the 30-year mark in 2020. It’s thanks to our culture of accountability and openness we’re making it past those milestones, I think. IISD has always invested in a financial team that delivers exceptional levels of professionalism and dedication.

Acknowledging the important role think tanks play in public policy development, Transparify began in 2014.

Our decision to list all of our diverse donors, identify funding amounts and to detail the specific projects they support matters to modern donors. Gone are the days of giving to "charity"; donors today make "investments" that achieve verifiable progress.

I wholly endorse this mindset—one driven by an increased urgency to achieve sustainable development goals like increasing access to clean power or ending hunger. The needs of our planet have never been greater. It only makes sense to ensure the right dollars are going to the right causes from the right sources, with a diverse funding base that supports objectivity.

This shift also speaks to our more skeptical society. Last year the Edelman Trust Barometer, which surveys tens of thousands of people around the world, found we trust government, media, businesses and NGOs less. We’re less likely to take promises to “do the right thing” at face value.

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In an age where authenticity and honesty are worth their weight in gold, IISD and other NGOs will continue to flourish in part by demanding rigorous standards. The Transparify report keeps us on that path—one we are committed to traveling for the next 50 years.