Transparency, when defined in the context of non-profit organizations and public boards, implies that said organizations are accountable to those they represent, that meetings and communications are open, that full financial disclosures are made public, and that all business practices are an open book. It’s an ethical obligation.
I’ve recently posted on my blog my second annual series of reports on the financial health of the non-profit organizations representing the massage profession. As my disclosure states, I am neither an accountant nor a financial expert. All of the information I used to prepare my blogs was taken directly from www.guidestar.org
Guidestar was founded in 1994 as a clearinghouse of information on non-profit organizations. The IRS Form 990 and any other filings required of non-profit organizations, as well as other data collected by them, is published on the website. They have data on every entity registered with the IRS as a non-profit organization.
It is a rule of the IRS that information on non-profits is publicly disclosed, including the compensation of key personnel. The organizations listed with Guidestar have the opportunity to post their filings themselves, and if they choose not to do that, Guidestar gets it straight from the IRS. I want to make it clear that the information I blogged was not some big secret that I received from one of my anonymous sources. It is public information and anyone who goes to the trouble to look it up can find it. I just saved you the trouble by publishing it in my blog, for those who are interested.
I almost went into a state of shock when I received an e-mail from one of our leaders who was upset with me for publishing that compensation. The statement they made to me was that it was their personal and private information–sorry, but that ain’t so, when you work for a non-profit–and that I was doing more harm than good by publishing it, that it would be taken out of context and that while others who administrate non-profits would understand, that the average massage therapist would not understand why their pay is what it is. I actually did not imply in any way that the person was overpaid, because I don’t believe they are. I call it like I see it and if I thought that, I would certainly say so.
I conducted a little informal poll on Facebook, and out of 51 responses, 50 of them agreed that I was promoting transparency by printing the information. The one dissent actually wasn’t a dissent; it was more of a sympathy note of understanding why people don’t want their salary revealed.
If you work for a for-profit company, then it’s certainly your prerogative to keep your income a secret–to a point–because even large corporations have to disclose the salary of their top brass. And if you work for a non-profit, especially one that claims to promote transparency, then disclosure is a given–as well it should be.