Conclusion of the Sunlight Foundation’s review process


Letter from the Board of Directors:

Dear Sunlight Community:

In May of 2018, the Sunlight Foundation Board of Directors committed to undertaking a review of the organization’s policies, culture, and staffing related to allegations of misconduct. Our goal was to understand how the Foundation could take action to create a stronger and safer environment for the people we work with and our staff. Today, this review is complete, and we are able to share with you results, as well as recommendations for how to take the organization, and its policies and practices, forward.

We engaged Katherine Kimpel to lead this review as an independent auditor. She has significant experience consulting on issues of gender and inclusion in the workplace. Ms. Kimpel reviewed Sunlight’s current and historical internal policies, processes, and other aspects of our work environment. The review also included voluntary interviews with current and former employees, Board members, and stakeholders from the broader Sunlight community.

We want to offer our sincere appreciation for everyone who was involved in this review. We recognize that it can be difficult to revisit the past, and yet many friends, stakeholders, and employees — both past and present — of Sunlight generously did. In particular, we wish to thank Sarah Schacht, who was the first to speak publicly about her experiences. All of your voices were critical to informing our understanding of our history, and starting us on a path to being an organization that can truly embody values of respect, transparency and accountability. Thank you for your courage and commitment.

The review showed there were fundamental issues with the Foundation’s culture and processes that contributed to a toxic culture. This had a profound impact on the people associated with the organization. It is also clear that the Board did not consistently uphold its governance responsibilities. We are truly sorry for the pain this caused and any it continues to cause. We are committed to taking action to build a culture where everyone who is part of the Sunlight Foundation family feels safe, empowered, and heard.

As current members of the Board of Directors, we acknowledge these failings. Because we are an organization that values transparency, we are releasing the report and full recommendations prepared by Ms. Kimpel along with this letter. We additionally hope that learning from this painful past may help other organizations avoid our mistakes.

The Board has reviewed, formally accepted, and committed to implementing all of the eleven key recommendations made by Ms. Kimpel. In addition to these eleven recommendations, we will also establish an Employee Advisory Committee, which will regularly share staff feedback with the Board. These actions are centered around strengthening a culture of respect and inclusion for Sunlight Foundation staff and stakeholders, improving organizational governance and accountability, and increasing the impact of our work to fulfill our mission. They include:

  • Incorporating values into the performance management process. We will include goal-setting and achievement metrics for each employee that are focused on values such as respect, accountability, collaboration, and transparency.
  • Creating opportunities for upward feedback. We will create channels that encourage and enable regular feedback to leadership and the Board of Directors.
  • Holding leadership accountable. We will establish clear expectations and measurable goals for all members of Foundation leadership and the Board.
  • Increased Board transparency and diversity. The Board will open relevant portions of non-executive meetings to participation from staff members. We will also seek additional diverse voices to enhance the Board.
  • Regular reporting to the Board. The Board will receive quarterly briefings on staff turnover, human resources matters, employee relations investigations, and workplace culture. The Board will appoint one Board member to serve as a point-person for all employees that have concerns about matters in the workplace.
  • Building leadership capacity. We will be offering workplace training to all employees to build capacity and leadership throughout the organization, as well as training on self-advocacy, interventions, and strategies to prevent harassment and inappropriate conduct.
  • Improving HR policies and procedures. In addition to past actions, such as reiterating the complaint process for misconduct allegations, we will closely examine and further update all existing HR policies and procedures regarding the reporting and investigation of misconduct so they meet the highest standards.
  • Establishing an Employee Advisory Group. To give each staff member an opportunity to consistently voice concerns to the leadership, we will work with staff to establish an Employee Advisory Group. The Group will meet with executive leadership on a regular basis to ensure we receive and continue to act on staff’s feedback.

The Board of Directors is committed to moving the Sunlight Foundation forward. There is — and will be — no place in the organization for misconduct, harassment, exclusion, toxic behavior or abuses of power, or those that might tolerate or ignore such behavior. We will move immediately to implement these recommendations, and ensure that they are supported by a sustained commitment to a more inclusive and supportive culture within the organization.

Over the course of the past few months, we have been fortunate to spend time with many of you who care deeply about the organization, its mission, and its future. We are confident that the Sunlight Foundation will emerge from this stronger and more effective than ever, and we commit to do all that we can to achieve that vision. We are grateful to everyone who has shared their intent to hold us accountable to this commitment. Thank you, and thank you again to everyone who participated and shared your experiences with us over the past year.


Sunlight Foundation Board of Directors


Full report and recommendations:

Review Report (6 pages):

Sunlight Foundation 2018 Review Report

Recommendations (3 pages):

Sunlight Foundation Recommendations