Orlando Shakes: Transparency-Washing

In a recent email from the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, the self-nicknamed "Orlando Shakes", they made the very official and braggy-sounding claim:

Orlando Shakespeare Theater in Partnership with UCF is now one of the most transparent nonprofits in Central Florida. If you've been reading the paper recently, you may be wondering how much you really know about the community organizations you support. We are proud to be among the first nonprofits recognized by the Community Foundation of Central Florida with a Reviewed Status in their new knowledge base.


What the hell does that mean?

Well, once you go to this lame site http://www.mycfcf.org and create an account, give someone your email address and phone number, and log in, then you go to the "Find Nonprofits Search Field" on the home page and enter a part of the organization's name - I tried "Shakespeare". There was one result. At this point, I had been turned away by the login screen dozens of times, and I was ready to give up.

Once I got in, I was allowed to see how much money the Shakes has been making and spending for the last 3 years. I noticed that they seem to be consistently spending more than they are making... now I never took Finance 101, but I think that's a problem!

I guess my big problem here was this unsolicited, cryptic, very proud, announcement that I am a patron of "one of the most transparent" theatre companies... OK... thanks.

I think when David Weinberger said "transparency is the new objectivity", he was talking about news organizations, and when Buddy Dyer told us that Green is the new Black, he was really just playing copy-cat. So why did it suddenly become important for our local nonprofits to show us their particulars?

Why wasn't this the standard before?

Why is this locked behind a login screen?

Why can't I actually share any of this information with you now?

I would, except for this line in the Terms and Conditions of the CFCF website:

Permission from the Foundation must be obtained before any Site Content is copied, reproduced, distributed, republished, downloaded, displayed, posted, or transmitted in any form or by any means

This is very transparent, but you can't tell anybody ANYTHING you've seen here without asking us.

Thanks... I think?


Zac wrote 14 years 20 weeks ago

Send an email to Michelle

Send an email to Michelle Chapin [mchapin@cfcflorida.org] at the Community Foundation. She heads up this initiative and can answer your questions.

From my understanding, this tool serves as a one-stop resource for people who want to invest their money back into Central Florida nonprofits, allowing them to easily see what each does and how their money would be spent.

Mark Brewer wrote 14 years 20 weeks ago

Hi Ryan - I appreciate your

Hi Ryan -

I appreciate your comments and apologize you had trouble entering the Community Foundation Knowledge Base. As you might expect, we had thousands of visitors to the site as almost 400 nonprofits shared their portraits with constituents for the first time. Launching a web site of this magnitude has it's own set of challenges.

The login is required for verification and to help us understand how people use the site. Your email will not be sold or given to anyone, we will not use it to contact you and, unless you make a contribution to one of the nonprofits you look at, they will not have access to your email.

This site is meant to allow you to see all of this "transparent information" in one place and know the Community Foundation has Reviewed the information for accuracy. It is not a site that ranks or rates a nonprofit - that is left to the patron to decide. So, your point about the Shakespeare Theater's financials is of interest to many for different reasons. Investors who know the financial challenges of running small theater can see the need to step up. Those who don't understand the realities of running small theater can learn. The Theater's transparency provides a chance for you to know this fact.

I think you will find that transparency is the norm for most nonprofits, we're just trying to put it all in one place for the community to see. Context, by the way, is part of transparency and the Foundation policy you quoted is meant to keep all the relevant information connected in the context. There is no need to copy anything out of the portrait - you can simply share the link with anyone who wants to see it. Further, all of the financial information, tax forms, and audits posted are public information - you can down load and print them if you wish.

I hope you'll give the site a second chance as we continue to build it in service to the region and the nonprofit sector. Our goal is to continue to make it easier to use and to provide more information. I also hope you'll give the Shakespeare Theater and all the nonprofits in the region credit for putting all their information on a public platform that allows people like you to see it and write about it.

Mark Brewer
Community Foundation of Central Florida

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