Financial transparency, trust essential in all nonprofits | June 22, 2012 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - June 22, 2012

Financial transparency, trust essential in all nonprofits

Trust is fragile. When trust is broken and we are hurt by the actions or inactions of another person or group, those feelings of betrayal can linger for a long time. Even more dangerous is when that negative experience is extrapolated to include all people or groups similar to the one that caused the pain.

When the news broke about the Tri-Valley Community Foundation ousting its president because of mismanagement and a lot of unanswered questions, tiny fractures appeared in the fragile shell of trust. We asked how this happened and who is responsible. Many of us put up our guard and started scrutinizing every other group lest it happen again.

However, we must not generalize. We must not think that because the TVCF was not well-managed and took liberties with other people's money that all charitable organizations are mismanaged and will take liberties. We must not paint all charitable organizations with the same brush. The Tri-Valley, the state and country, for that matter, are filled with charitable organizations that are on the up-and-up, managed by competent staff and boards who know their roles and duties, including fiduciary oversight, and believe in transparency.

And they are still very much in need of funds to continue their good work. The "safety net" services provided for those in need by our local health center, food bank and the like are critical now and the community's support is imperative for the services to continue.

What was mismanagement at best and betrayal at worst by the TVCF will continue to sting for a while. For better or worse, experience is a good teacher. Our community is a shining example of generous, caring people and if we allow this to deter us from giving to those in need, then we all lose. The loss to the needy and the organizations that provide services is obvious; less obvious is the result that reluctance to give has on the rest of us. When we let bitterness fester and stop caring for and supporting those in need, it doesn't take long to become apathetic about the needs of the less fortunate and lose our sense of community.

A positive response to this painful situation would be that boards and staffs of other nonprofits recognize the importance of financial transparency and trust of the community, and that residents do not stop giving to worthy organizations. Then we can say our community has responded to a potentially devastating incident in a positive manner, and has even grown stronger.