This week’s topic:
“How should social impact (or nonprofit effectiveness) be evaluated?” How can we best understand the output of nonprofit or for profit social enterprises? It is not enough to simply say that an organization is “doing good”. How much good are they doing and how effective are they at turning “inputs” (donations and/or investment dollars) into social “outputs”?
Phil Cubeta worries that focusing on outcome measurement is trapping us in an “increasingly airless world” in “Measuring Social Good: Ode to the West Wind”.
Susan Herr wonders if donors even want metrics for their giving in “Accountability as a Struggle Between Head and Heart”.
Albert Ruesga thinks that only donors themselves can answer the question in “Some Hard Truths About Evaluation”.
The Washington Area Women’s Foundation profiles their evaluation process in “Evaluation: Beyond accountability to change”.
GiveWell offers their own “actual, defined, concrete metrics” in “Metrics: between losing your humanity and throwing up your hands”.
I explain why movie criticism may show us the best way to evaluate charities in “Rating Charities: A Qualitative Approach”.
Thanks to everyone who contributed.
I’ll venture to say that GiveWell is putting itself out there more than any of the other posters, offering actual metrics to be picked apart and critiqued. Describing the pitfalls on both sides is one thing; the hardest way to respond to the question Sean posed is to try to navigate them and give a concrete answer.
I know the GiveWell post is a long one, but I really think it’s worth reading and commenting on for this reason: it contains an actual attempt at the balancing act between too much evaluation and too little. I would really like this space to provide dialogue and constructive criticism, not just collections of disconnected editorials, and I would really appreciate if people would read, think about, and comment on our approach to metrics.