Monday, March 30, 2009

Transparency and What That Means in Nonprofits

I work with many non-profit organizations that develop certification programs for people (e.g. Certified Financial Planners, Certified Public Accountants). At a recent conference, my colleagues and I were discussing the recent election and how the new administration might influence certification. The new administration is aiming for an environment of transparency. According to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (2006) something is transparent if it is “easily seen through or detected or obvious: transparent lies.” Another meaning is “Free from guile; candid or open: transparent sincerity.”

There are at least 5 ways of increasing transparency in certification:
1. Provide basic information about the procedures used in the certification process on your web site or in publically available written documents
2. Increase the range of expertise and the number of participants in policy decisions on critical decisions – in certification this includes activities such as developing the content standards and test specifications and setting the cut score
3. Educate your constituents (consumers, regulators, test takers, professional association members) about the certification process and the importance of the process
4. Involve your certificants in the improvement of the program
5. Obtain third party accreditation against a certification standard

Increasing transparency has the advantage of making the certification process more open and understandable for those who participate. I believe it increases the fairness of the process and the tests and it helps the future test taker understand what is expected.

Is transparency important to other nonprofit organizations? Is the need for transparency increasing with this administration or in this economy? What are best practices in nonprofit organizations?

Cheryl L. Wild, Ph.D.
Wild & Associates, Inc.
Phone: 732-713-1953

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