We recently complained that “UNICEF provides no information about where the money goes and what projects are in progress.” Some might feel that this complaint comes from unrealistically high standards of transparency, especially for organizations such as UNICEF. How is an organization spending $2.7 billion a year supposed to report its activities?
Our answer would be: “like the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) does.” (Page 55 of its 2008 annual report shows that its budget size is very close to UNICEF’s at $2.7 billion.)
GFATM provides an online program search of all its activities. For any grant it has given (example), you can see (if completed) the grant proposal, grant agreement, and reports on progress. In other words, you can see how much has spent and how (and whether) progress has been tracked.
GFATM recently released the kind of document we have never seen from any other charity approaching its size: an overall evaluation of its activities and impact. Not a general discussion of the organization; not a “meta-evaluation” discussing the quality of past evaluations; a discussion of the overall impact of all of GFATM’s activities across the world. Furthermore, this report was in no way a fundraising document; it was frank about the fact that inadequate evidence exists for GFATM’s impact to date (see the discussion at our review).
GFATM comes under a lot of criticism, even from its own evaluators. We ourselves have many reservations about its work, as our review establishes. But we have seen very few charities – and no other charities approaching its size – that can make as strong a claim to being a transparent organization and a learning organization.
GFATM proves that neither size nor celebrity support need stop a charity from being clear about what it’s working on and how it’s going.