Tuesday, October 22, 2013

"A Whole Lot-a Baloney in that Sandwich" : An NPR Morning Edition Interview

Photo by Ann Larie Valentine
On 10-22-13, NPR ran a story about Charity Navigator's new Results Reporting methodology. It included an interview with me in which I stressed the critical need for charities to measure and report on their results as well as donors' desire to access such information. It also included the typical excuses we hear from some charities about why they claim they can not report their results. In the interview, I characterize those excuses as "a whole lot-a baloney". The excuses encompass everything from a lack of resources, to 'it's too hard,' to the fear of the fallout from potential criticism. But we believe that it is critically important that the sector move past those excuses and get serious about determining which programs, services and charities are making a real and lasting difference in the world. The largest nonprofit sector in the history of the world, garnering roughly $1.5 trillion per year in revenues, should be able to tell donors that it meets its mission in a measurable way. There is no excuse to do otherwise!

You can hear the story here or read it here.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I absolutely believe you are correct, and support all that Charity Navigator has done to foster credibility within the nonprofit sector. Especially in the arts, where Ms. Phillips is sadly mis-informed, wealthy donors often hold back on giving to their capacity because they don't see results. In a recent examination I completed for the Arts and Science Council of Charlotte, I found that only 17% of $1 million+ net worth donors to the cultural sector gave $1000 or more in 2012, while 36% gave gifts under $50. It is to this end that foundations throughout the US, notably Pew Charitable Trusts and the William Penn Foundation in their examination of the sector in Philadelphia, have worked toward viable measurements that the sector can use to demonstrate results. Sincere thanks for your work that helps smart organizations in the sector demonstrate they offer return on investment inclusive of outstanding art and cultural programming as well as outstanding fiscal capacity.

Ken Berger said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for your helpful insights. We have a long road ahead of us and will be turning to work such as what you mention here, to help us identify those "viable measures" that charities and experts have developed along the way.

Best,
Ken

Adam Bricker said...

I've dedicated most of the past 10 years designing and building systems (people, process and technology) to enable people and organizations to design (theory), develop (technical approach), plan, manage, monitor and evaluate their environmental, social and governance (ESG) programs. I worked at one of the world's largest INGOs and was impressed with their tenacity to tackle this challenge Ken so purposefully sets forth. Now delivering such solutions on a commercial basis has been en education in the structural issues facing an industry at large: overhead rates versus impact rates; marketing budget versus M&E budget; activity-focused versus outcome/impact-focused... and the line (from the NPR interview) about industry jargon was priceless (and a bit sad). One of the largest US foundations was quite comfortable in their "we fire and forget" with our funding message. Way to go Ken! and keep up the good fight.
Regards,
Adam

Ken Berger said...

Adam,

Thanks so much. Speaking of fighting, in case you missed it, check out the article "The Battle for the Soul of the Nonprofit Sector" here - http://www.philasocialinnovations.org/site/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=163%3Athe-battle-for-the-soul-of-the-nonprofit-sector&catid=20%3Awhat-works-and-what-doesnt&Itemid=31&showall=1

Best,
Ken

Anonymous said...

I would agree that outcome is critical and balance essential. However, I find a much bigger problem lies with financial transparency at all levels of non-profit organizations.

Our small organization, which doesn't qualify for your evaluation because we don't have $1,000,000 in revenue, prides itself on an 82/18 ratio. We actively monitor the effectiveness of our programs which we are proud to say improves every year.

Perhaps you should consider tighter reviews of finances in your rating system.

Ken Berger said...

Anonymous,

We believe a charity must be evaluated in three critical areas - finances, governance and results reporting. We will continue to look at charity finances as we have since we began our rating service in 2002. We have some of the most rigorous financial metrics out there among rating services.

I commend you for your good financial management however, at least for the larger organizations we evaluate, we think that what matters most is the results of the work. You can have lots of money allocated to programs but that does not mean they are of quality. That is why we take a multi-dimensional approach to rating charities.

Best,
Ken

Paul Lai said...

I believe that, for those of us blessed with the fat of the earth, it's no longer enough to merely give, without being conscientious about to whom we give - unless we're not results-oriented in other aspects of our life. I took your very low score of New Missions, a charity I support, and asked them about the horrid transparency score they got. I very quickly received a personal response from the CEO, saying they are working on it. I believe him, and look forward to seeing yourself evaluation on Charity Navigator.

Ken Berger said...

Paul,

I believe in the last sentence of your comment you are asking about Charity Navigator being rated. We intend to do just that and have the rating signed off on by an independent third party when we do. However, to be consistent with the policy we hold all charities to, it will be in five years. We were a private foundation until 2012. We require a public charity to file a regular IRS 990 for five years. Otherwise the information is not available to do the full methodology for a rating. Meanwhile you can learn about our performance here - http://www.charitynavigator.org/index.cfm?bay=content.view&cpid=1113#.UoopTMSsh8E

Best,
Ken