Qualified support for central information repository on non-US NGOs

While there is a good deal of support among both grantmakers and NGOs for the idea of creating in the US a centralized repository of information on non-US NGOs, a number of concerns would need to be addressed if it is to be a useful instrument, according to a recent study funded by the GE Foundation for the Council on Foundations, Independent Sector, the Foundation Center and GuideStar.

Such an information bank would provide a more efficient way of assessing equivalency (of non-US NGOs to US charities) and conducting anti-terrorism vetting. Seventy-six per cent of the 79 US-based international grantmakers surveyed were in favour of establishing such a repository. Ninety-eight per cent of the 56 NGO respondents said that they would be prepared to submit key information to it on a regular basis and 86 per cent of them said they would prefer to submit such information to a centralized repository than to individual grantmakers.

However, while respondents agreed that such a step would streamline the process of grantmaking and grantseeking, a number of concerns emerged on both sides. Unless the repository can provide the necessary support services, it may disadvantage smaller, newer NGOs with staff who are not fluent in English and those that don’t have the capability to provide and maintain all required information. Some NGOs may be worried about questions of privacy under such an arrangement. The repository may set higher standards than those of some grantmakers and not all NGOs may be willing or able to meet them. Grantmakers who prefer their own standards may decide against using the repository, while others may be unwilling to relinquish control over the vetting procedure.

On the basis of the generally positive response, however, the advisory committee, comprising representatives from the four US philanthropy sector organizations, is planning a second phase of the initiative that will address the main issues identified in the report and implement its recommended next steps.

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