"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." (Sign hanging in Einstein’s office at Princeton)
Quick, which movie is better?
Casablanca or Look Who’s Talking, Too?
The Godfather or Bio-Dome with Pauly Shore?
Star Wars or Grease 2?
How do you know? What metrics are you using? I can’t think of any scoring system or appropriate metric to rate these movies, yet I KNOW that the first choice is a better buy at the rental store.
This country has a robust movie ranting system that is entirely qualitative. We have an enormous system of professional movie critics who make their ratings public and provide detailed commentary on why they like or dislike each film. There is no reason why a similar system could not be developed for charities.
I think the focus on quantitative rating systems has to do with the large number of nonprofits. How could a start up rating system even begin to offer educated opinions on the over 1 million 501(c)3 nonprofits in this country? I don’t think they have to. An effective program could be started rating the largest nonprofits. If successful, I think you would quickly see new startups rating “The best small nonprofits”, “The best Christian nonprofits”, “The best nonprofits to save the environment”, etc.
The system doesn’t have to be limited to professional critics. I love the site IMDb.com which aggregates all sorts of movie reviews from both pros and everyday movie fans. There is certainly a place for a user created content platform so donors could talk about their own experiences with nonprofits. As we know from film criticism, moviegoers and movie critics often like different films. However, we rarely see really bad movies doing great at the box office.
So enough with administrative expense ratios. Enough with the focus on the salary of charity officials. I want to know which nonprofits are any good and I don’t think there’s any number you can show me that will answer that question. To paraphrase Einstein’s sign, “Just because you can count the amount spent on overhead doesn’t mean it’s important and just because you can’t count the amount of good done by a nonprofit doesn’t mean that’s not the single most important thing for me to know.”
So who’s going to do this? I hope Perla Ni is up to the task…