Photo by Bennecontentos
Sarah Dopp got me wondering about the definitions of these two terms: authenticity and transparency.
She notes, "The buzzwords have been floating around a lot lately (in politics, social media, etc), and I realize I don't know the difference between them. I twittered yesterday that I'd like to see a Venn diagram showing where they overlap and where they don't, and I was met with two brilliant responses."
Jenka Gurfinkle of social-creature wrote: "authenticity" is about relevance, "transparency" is about defensiveness. the overlap is accidental and uncorrelated. Emma McCreary of the Tao of Prosperity took a different angle: authenticity = what is alive in me, transparency = a conscious choice to disclose that because I want to live in that kind of world.
So, I thought I would round up some of the thinking on these two terms of the nonprofit space. But, first I wanted to check on some formal definitions. A quick trip to the dictionary and Wikipedia:
- Authenticity refers to the truthfulness of origins, attributions, commitments, sincerity, devotion, and intentions.
- Tranparency means open, frank or candid.
A few months N-TEN, an organization that supports the nonprofit technology field, disclosed the results of its internal evaluation to measure success of its programs and invited readers to interpret the meaning. This disclosure came on the heels of a debate on nonprofit technology blogs about numbers only types of evaluation and how they don't tell the whole story.
Transparency is not a term the nonprofit world typically associates with grant-making decisions. There's a movement towards Philanthropy 2.0 which makes the process more transparent. In fact, it is concept behind Givewell, a philanthropy 2.0 site. Givewell's goal was to make a thorough analysis of charities (the kind now exclusive to foundations) usable to all donors, large and small – and open the dialogue to anyone. Recently, one of the co-founders, Holden Karnofsky, had to apologize for being less than open with the public because he hid his identity on an online message board where he asked for ideas on how to choose a charity to support. The debate in the comments of this post shed some light on the definition of transparency in the nonprofit world.
The "Don't Tell the Donor Blog" has more in a column over the Nonprofit Times called "Our Donors Are Talking - What Are We Afraid of?"
The concept of authenticity in branding and marketing was the theme explored in a blog carnival for nonprofit consultants last July. As noted on the Seachange blog, "In the uptight and highly risk-averse world of non-profit communications, it’s sometimes downright scary." Some of the responses may be useful to Sarah's inquiry:
- Nancy Schwartz offered a framework for looking at the issue of authenticity and how it comes into play in your communications.
- Melanie Schmidt usefully reminds us that authenticity is a process, rather than a list of key messages, and that our ability to “stay real” is being constantly tested.
How would you define these terms as they are applied in the nonprofit world? How are they the same or different?
Update: Reading my feeds this morning, found that authenticity and transparency were the topic in a few other blog posts. So, adding these here for what it's worth.
How To Teach Marketers to Be Authentic by Scott Monty
The Human Voice
What does it mean to be transparent and authentic? Jeremiah Owyang