In our terms, what is a 5-star rating? Institutions receive five stars for being entirely transparent about their funding.  Five-star institutions make it easy for an engaged citizen to find out who supports their work, and any of their specific projects.  They are role models in the field. In practice an institutions can do this by

  1. citing its supporters
  2. providing funding amounts
  3. highlighting project specific vs core funding, ideally indicating project duration
  4. making this information accessible, just a few clicks from the homepage.

There are a number of great examples of 5-star institutions. These typically are also institutions that are recognized for being leaders in their fields.

  • The Sunlight Foundation, although not a think tank, shows how you can make funding information very accessible.
  • The Center for Global Development has a similarly attractive presentation of their funding data.
  • Bruegel, a European think tank based in Brussels, explains clearly how it is funded, and highlights its supporters at the beginning of its annual report.
  • The Center for the Study of Democracies, Bulgaria, posts a separate financial report with details on funding and project funding.
  • Grupo Faro, a think tank in Ecuador, also offers funding information in its annual report.
  • The Centre for Policy Research (CPR) in India has a neat listing, with notes, from page 78 of its annual report.
  • ECDPM, the European Center for Development and Policy Management, is a good example of disaggregating core and project funding.
  • The World Resources Institute (WRI), shows how an institution with many dozens of donors can be transparent.

These institutions can provide inspiration on how to become more transparent. At the same time, we recommend putting transparency data directly on the webpage (here the Center for Global Development is a good example), as website visitors may be less likely to open a PDF, especially when they use smart phones or tablets.  There are a number of different designs you can bring to this issue, and we look forward to seeing more models of transparency and accountability.

Practically, this information should be readily available from internal financial reports. Formatting that information to make it accessible and visually attractive typically will take another two or three hours. And there you have it: more accountability does take an effort but it’s not hard. We believe that think tanks should be on the forefront of spreading this message, and hope you will join to become a five-star institution soon.

Next to our annual ratings, we also make it possible for institutions to reach a 5-star ratings more immediately. If you have upgraded your transparency to five stars and want to let us know, go here