The Center for Effective Philanthropy today released a new report based on a survey of 177 nonprofit social service providers.
According to the report, over 80 percent of the surveyed leaders report that they believe that they should demonstrate the effectiveness of their work by using performance measures.
However, only 32 percent believe that foundation funders have been helpful in assessing performance and 62 percent would like more help from foundations. The nonprofit leaders pointed to additional financial support for assessment, but also non-financial assistance.
The leaders would also like to see more consistency between foundations in the types of information they seek from their grantees.
This work requires investment and serious commitments. We should not expect each nonprofit to come up with indicators and measurement tools, nor should we encourage each foundation to develop and impose indicators on grantees. That way leads to confusion and the inability to compare and benchmark results across similar programs and organizations. After all, as the report documents, foundations only support, on average, 20 percent of the budget of grantees in the survey. Grantees have other constituents they must serve: clients, individual and government funders, and their communities. Each stakeholder cannot reasonably expect to have its own measures.
We have a great deal of evidence-based knowledge about what works in particular fields and how to improve performance. The problem is that this information is rarely found in one place and made available in standard formats for nonprofits to access and use—but we have begun that work. PerformWell, a product of the Urban Institute, Child Trends, and Social Solutions, is one example. It compiles evidence-based indicators and tested performance measurement tools in program areas of interest to nonprofits and makes them available—free—online, with periodic webinars and newsletters to help nonprofits use the tools. This is just the beginning of developing standard ways of measuring similar programs, and demand is strong.