China Foundation Transparency Index publishes latest report

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The virtual forum of the China Foundation Transparency Index (FTI) organized by China Foundation Center (CFC) took place on Dec 15. Nearly 107,000 people took part, along with experts from 12 foundations.

In a change from previous years, this year’s forum featured a number of sub-forums in four different locations: Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chengdu and Qinghai. The FTI 2021 Report was released during the forum and the number of foundations to gain a transparency score of 90 or above (out of 100) was announced. Eleven foundations gained full marks for the tenth consecutive year.

Cheng Gang, president of the CFC, said that the FTI had been upgraded five times within one decade, and the aim of it was to motivate foundations in China to disclose information required by relevant laws and regulations and continue to help improve the transparency and ethics of the non-profit sector.

Wang Lu, vice president of the CFC, introduced the FTI 2021 and its distinctive features. Compared to the previous index, this year’s has less indicators for comprehensive evaluation of a foundation’s transparency. Some of the previous indicators have been merged to form new indicators, and the names of some indicators have been changed to terms that are more easily understood.

Former indicators with little measurable value have been removed. The proportion of indicators measuring a foundation’s compliance has been increased.

Cheng Wenhao, professor at the School of Public Administration at Tsinghua University, reflected on the development of the FTI and Chinese foundations over the past decade. He pointed out that between 2012 and 2021, the total number of foundations had increased from 2,000 to 8,000, and the average FTI score had risen from 43.21 (out of 129.4) to 58.54 (out of 100).

He also stressed that the FTI is transparent, authoritative and practical. All the indicators of the FTI are known to the public so that anyone can check the evaluation dimensions. In addition, the FTI indicators will encourage and guide foundations to disclose more information. The FTI indicators are also practical tools to assist foundations in improving their internal management and transparency.

Regarding the future of the FTI, Li Jin, director of Foundation Center Network and Gu Qing, a program officer from the Ford Foundation shared their insights.

Li argued that the future upgrading of the FTI should focus on improving the existing framework and adjusting the measurement indicators. For example, when evaluating program information, the current FTI indicators only ask for income and expenditure. Li suggested that in the future, the results and impact of each program should also be evaluated.

Gu had three suggestions for the FTI. First, she suggested that it should encourage foundations to disclose information more willingly instead of being forced to disclose information by regulations and laws; foundations should not publish their information simply to gain a higher FTI score. Second, she mentioned that the FTI should encourage foundations to pay attention to solving problems revealed by their score. And finally, Gu argued that more use should be made of the data gathered by the index.