Achieving Foundation Accountability and Transparency

Lessons from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Scorecard

Foundations are unique institutions; there are very few requirements to provide information about how money is spent; yet private foundations often exist to improve the public good. To help foundations in their efforts for transparency and accountability, this article explores the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and its experience developing a scorecard.

Since the beginning, evaluations have been a part of the way in which RWJF seeks to measure its impact. Evaluations of large, national programs are shared publicly through peer-review articles and findings published on rwjf.org.

The Scorecard is RWJF’s evaluation of itself as an organization. While the Scorecard has changed over time, it serves as an important tool to gauge improvement and track organizational progress. Today’s Balanced Scorecard looks at four distinct areas of its work— (1) program development, (2) program impact, (3) grantee relations; and (4) human resources (staff development).

Key Findings:

  • Foundations can tailor their scorecard to include what best serves their needs.
  • With its Scorecard, RWJF found that comparative and quantitative measures are the most powerful forces to motivate change.
  • Developing performance indicators provided RWJF with a way to measure strategic goals.
  • Setting targets motivates staff to focus their efforts on certain areas and make improvements.

A public version of the Scorecard, the 2009 Assessment Report can be found here.