Neither database mandates nor generally contains up-to-date versions of the records that UBI Charitable and OpenResearch had said they provided in the past.

The original YC Research conflict-of-interest policy that Das did share calls for company insiders to be upfront about transactions in which their impartiality could be questioned and for the board to decide how to proceed.

Das says the policy “may have been amended since OpenResearch’s policies changed (including when the name was changed from YC Research), but the core elements remain the same.”

No Website

UBI Charitable launched in 2020 with $10 million donated from OpenAI, as first reported by TechCrunch last year. UBI Charitable’s aim, according to its government filings, is putting the over $31 million it received by the end of 2022 to support initiatives that try to offset “the societal impacts” of new technologies and ensure no one is left behind. It has donated largely to CitySquare in Dallas and Heartland Alliance in Chicago, both of which work on a range of projects to fight poverty.

UBI Charitable doesn’t appear to have a website but shares a San Francisco address with OpenResearch and OpenAI, and OpenAI staff have been listed on UBI Charitable’s government paperwork. Its three Form 990 filings since launching all state that records including governing documents, financial statements, and a conflict-of-interest policy were available upon request.

Rick Cohen, chief operating and communications officer for National Council of Nonprofits, an advocacy group, says “available upon request” is a standard answer plugged in by accounting firms. OpenAI, OpenResearch, and UBI Charitable have always shared the same San Francisco accounting firm, Fontanello Duffield & Otake, which didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Miscommunication or poor oversight could lead to the standard answer about access to records getting submitted, “even if the organization wasn’t intending to make them available,” Cohen says.

The disclosure question ended up on what’s known as the Form 990 as part of an effort in 2008 to help the increasingly complex world of nonprofits showcase their adherence to governance best practices, at least as implied by the IRS, says Kevin Doyle, senior director of finance and accountability at Charity Navigator, which evaluates nonprofits to help guide donors’ giving decisions. “Having that sort of transparency story is a way to indicate to donors that their money is going to be used responsibly,” Doyle says.

OpenResearch solicits donations on its website, and UBI Charitable stated on its most recent IRS filing that it had received over $27 million in public support. Doyle says Charity Navigator’s data show donations tend to flow to organizations it rates higher, with transparency among the measured factors.

It’s certainly not unheard of for organizations to share a wide range of records. Charity Navigator has found that most of the roughly 900 largest US nonprofits reliant on individual donors publish financial statements on their websites. It doesn’t track disclosure of bylaws or conflict-of-interest policies.

Charity Navigator publishes its own audited financial statements and at least eight nonstandard policies it maintains, including ones on how long it retains documents, how it treats whistleblower complaints, and which gifts staff can accept. “Donors can look into what we’re doing and make their own judgment rather than us operating as a black box, saying, ‘Please give us money, but don’t ask any questions,’” Doyle says.

Cohen of the National Council of Nonprofits cautions that over-disclosure could create vulnerabilities. Posting a disaster-recovery plan, for example, could offer a roadmap to computer hackers. He adds that just because organizations have a policy on paper doesn’t mean they follow it. But knowing what they were supposed to do to evaluate a potential conflict of interest could still allow for more public accountability than otherwise possible, and if AI could be as consequential as Altman envisions, the scrutiny may very well be needed.

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