Blog Posts: Charity Evaluation
Are you wasting your time attending leadership development conferences?
130 years ago, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus devised several experiments to measure how fast we forget. He concluded the majority of information we hear is forgotten within one hour, and 75% disappears in a week. To be sure, his simplified conclusion doesn’t take into account varied teaching methods, experiential learning strategies, or learning styles. Not all educational strategies are created equal. But it raises the question: Do leadership conferences leave a lasting impact after a couple days of talks?
Where can donors get answers to their questions about charity efficiency and effectiveness? Intelligent Philanthropy. Intelligent Philanthropy now publishes up-to-date answers to the most common questions donors ask.
No other online platform tackles all these important questions. Only Intelligent Philanthropy presents up-to-date nonprofit performance in one simple page. Intelligent Philanthropy still offers 160 data points about leadership, finances, strategy and impact via downloadable 2-page nonprofit Analytical Overviews for paid subscribers. However, donors who want the highlights without all the numbers and trend lines can now get what they want for free. Intelligent Philanthropy's 2013 release of nonprofit effectiveness and efficiency data finally makes it possible to give wisely without investing much time.
Impact measurement has been dubbed the Holy Grail of all social enterprise. If non-profit and for-profit social enterprises could capture the lasting difference made from all the meetings, projects, programs, fundraisers, volunteers, budgets and staff, we would have arrived. We would know if all the donations, charity walks, social media campaigns, grant proposals and collaborative partnerships are worth it. Not surprisingly, no one has found a short cut to universal impact measurement. There is no simple formula that determines whether a charity is ‘high impact,’ I believe there are a few specific steps to take when assessing any non-profit’s impact.
High performing nonprofits develop careful strategies for creating consistent revenue to sustain operations. Donors do not want to support an organization one year and see its programs collapse the next year from insufficient funding. Great organizations with bold visions and effective programs understand that sustainable revenue streams are mission-critical.
Finding out if organizations you support will sustain themselves is step 3 in our 6-step process for evaluating nonprofit performance.
Do you want to know if charities you support operate efficiently and effectively in pursuit of their mission? You can. The best online charity evaluation platform just got better. The 2-page nonprofit Analytical Overviews from Intelligent Philanthropy have added 30 entry fields for a total of 150 up-to-date data points on organizational health and performance. Check out a sample 2012 edition Analytical Overview. There is no more comprehensive and concise overview of a charity's leadership, financial management, strategy and impact available on the internet anywhere.
New nonprofit information in the 2012 edition Analytical Overviews include...
High performing nonprofits must understand how to manage their money. Charities cannot promise great things to supporters and run out of resources along the way. A delicate balance of maintaining healthy reserves, minimizing debt, and sticking to a budget is required. Donors don’t want a bait-and-switch where increased donations go to debt service or get stockpiled in the bank without any increased impact. And no one can tolerate financial mismanagement where an organization lives in the red with unrealistic budgets or doesn’t put the majority of its funds into mission-related activities.
Just days before Intelligent Philanthropy turns 1 year old, we have finally been recognized as one of 8 major online charity evaluation and accountability organizations. RELEVANT Magazine published an article "Where Do Your Donations Go?" and listed Intelligent Philanthropy alongside Guidestar and GiveWell. Admittedly, the author chose to highlight and interview Charity Navigator and ECFA leaders. But the citation in a 3rd party publication is a step in the right direction for what we believe is the best all-around charity evaluation platform available.
Where do you start when evaluating the health of a nonprofit organization? Incessant headlines about dishonest educational programs, irresponsible board governance, misleading cancer charities, and corrupt first responder foundations remind us a little assessment can go a long way. But most of us don't have time for detailed due diligence. So where do we begin a cursory evaluation of nonprofit infrastructure and impact?
Are foundations making good grants? I see positive trends to applaud and emulate in the latest Money for Good II study that surveyed foundation giving decisions. If you want to find out how many hours of research foundations are doing before issuing grants and how much their findings affect new gifts, check out my recent post about Positive Trends in Foundation Grant-making at the Council on Foundations RE:Philanthropy blog.
What if your donation to fight human trafficking paid the salary of a human trafficker? What if your donation to support widowed law enforcement families went to a felon’s bank account? What if your child sponsorship monthly donation and letters never helped the girl in the picture? What if you gave money to loan to a struggling entrepreneur in Africa that was actually embezzled by loan officers? In the last year, I have seen each one of these nightmares come true. It could have been avoided. Read how in my latest Alliance magazine article Giving poorly can be worse than not giving at all.