Transparify’s report on Open Data NGOs

19 June 2015

Recently, Transparify conducted an investigation into 34 non-profit organisations that were sending speakers to the Open Data Conference (#IODC15) in Ottawa, Canada. Their aim was to find out to what extent their websites disclosed what where their sources of funding. The results are the following:

  • 12 are already transparent about who funds them
  • 7 stated they plan to become transparent in the near future
  • 15 are opaque and seem not to want to disclose more funding data

Transparify has stated that they will re-assess all 34 institutions later this year to track and document their progress (you can sign up to receive their follow-up report by email).

For Transparify, transparent organisations list their donors with the exact amounts –as well as purpose- of the funding they received, and make this information easily accessible on their website (typically less than four clicks from the main page). It makes sense that non-profit organisations promoting transparency should be transparent themselves.


Transparify visited the websites of all the organisations surveyed looking for their funding information disclosed online, including in annual reports. Later contact with all organisations was carried out through email and Twitter.

To rate the organisations, they used a five star scale, which obeys the following criteria:

  • Five stars: highly transparent: all donors listed, identifying funding amounts for, and sources of, particular projects 
  • Four stars: broadly transparent: donors above USD 5,000 listed in 4+ precise funding brackets 
  • Three stars: all or most donors listed in 2 or 3 broad contribution brackets [e.g. “USD 5,000 to 15,000, the following donors”]
  • Two stars: all or many donors listed, but little or no financial information
  • One star: some donors listed, but not exhaustive or systematic Zero stars 0 no relevant or up-to-date information


According to Transparify, five key elements make up the importance of transparency for non-profit organisations:

  • Non-profits are key actors in democratic societies
  • Non-profits enjoy tax-free status -which is a kind of public subsidy
  • Transparency builds credibility with donors, clients, policy-makers and other stakeholders
  • The sector as a whole is huge, e.g. in the United States it accounts for over 8% of GDP
  • Voluntary transparency is the best way to dissuade burdensome external regulation