How much and to whom does it matter that a nonprofit be transparent about the source of its money and the influence donors have on its work?
Well, if you are the Global Energy balance Network (www.gebn.org) your credibility is based in part on your transparency. The Network's credibility is currently being called to question by the media who in its own research found that the Network has received at least one fairly large grant from Coca-Cola.
The media has suggested that Coca-Cola has been using its philanthropic money to "buy" positive reports about the influence of its products, particularly on obesity. This is of course the classic "tainted money" question whereby it's recognized that the more support a nonprofit (or any entity or individual for that matter) receives from one or more donors, the more that nonprofit may indeed be beholden to that source. And for sure, in a world where resources are not distributed evenly (aka USA), the trade-off for getting mission accomplished must often be weighed.
So I went to the Global Energy Balance Network's site and also Guidestar to look at a 990 to see just how much influence $1.5 million has purchased and perhaps because the organization is too recently formed or for some other reasons (like less transparency) could not find information on the organization's finances. Yes, the website does state that it has support from Coca-Cola. And yes, there's actually an email contact to direct questions. But, no, no more detailed information. Obfuscation? Not so sure.
So - credibility and transparency do go together and likely contribute pretty significantly to how much others want to get involved. And yes, perhaps the Global Energy Balance Network may not stand the test of time given the media and its choice of donors. A series of lessons for others to consider I suggest.
CANDICE CHOI, THE ASSOCIATED PRESSPOSTED: Tuesday, November 24, 2015, 3:05 AM
NEW YORK (AP) - A nonprofit founded to combat obesity says the $1.5 million it received from Coke doesn't influence its work.
But emails obtained by The Associated Press show the company was instrumental in shaping the Global Energy Balance Network. Coke helped pick the group's leaders, edited its mission statement and suggested content for its website.
When contacted by the AP, Coca-Cola Co. CEO Muhtar Kent said in a statement that the company was not as transparent about its involvement with the group as it should have been.
Coke told the AP it has accepted the retirement of its chief health and science officer, Rhona Applebaum, who initially managed the relationship with the group.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20151124_ap_6f7b03ad02544893899b3270bdfdfa1b.html#mEOIUhCJTcdtbjKY.99