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Are Donors and Nonprofits on the Same Path to Impact? Share your story.

June 13, 2012

(l) Carra Cote-Ackah, Director, Partnerships & Strategic Initiatives; (r) Jen Landres, Project Manager/Analyst

As some of our readers might recall, in February, we announced a joint partnership between the Wharton Program for Social Impact (WPSI) and the Center for High Impact Philanthropy in launching a Social Impact Analytics Initiative.

This multi-stage initiative aims to transform the practice of measuring impact from an academic or a compliance chore to a practical, grounded effort that, effectively, improves the ability of organizations to achieve their missions. Thus far, two high-level takeaways from our extensive literature review and web scan include:

  1. There are a multitude of resources/tools for both organizations and donors as they “manage to impact” across a chain of activities—ultimately moving from goals and capacity assessment to evaluating and communicating impact.
  2. The utility of these resources and tools seems to fit well into four main categories:
    1. Developing organizational/programmatic goals and strategy
    2. Identifying indicators and metrics
    3. Managing data and evaluating performance
    4. Communicating results and information

As we reach the mid-point of this first stage in our initiative, it’s a great time to begin testing our thinking with what you—our readers—are using in the field. We’d love to know how deeply and how often you’re applying various “impact-focused” tools, and whether there is a mismatch between the needs of various stakeholders and the information the tools provide. We welcome your thoughts!

Donors:

  • What metrics do you use to evaluate your performance and/or the performance of your grantees? Are these tools/resources the same ones your grantees are using for themselves? If you don’t know, we challenge you to ask your grantees—we’d love to hear what you learn.
  • What is the goal of seeking evaluation and/or using these tools? Is it primarily compliance (did your grantee do what they do what they said they were going to)? Or, is it primarily learning (to inform future decision making and/or to suggest opportunities for strengthening funded organizations)? Or both?

Nonprofits/NGOs:

  • What are the tools that you use most often to manage your performance and to assess your impact? Are these the same tools that your donors ask you to use for evaluation and reporting? Does this align with what your donors ask of you vis a vis evaluation and reporting?

Share your story—we want to hear from you!

We encourage you to comment below with the hope of facilitating a more open dialogue about this topic. However, if you have comments but don’t feel comfortable sharing them publicly, please feel free to email us at: impact@sp2.upenn.edu. We synthesize information from many sources, and where attribution is sensitive, are happy to keep information confidential. We hope this generates a lot of discussion, and we’ll be following up with a blog on our findings later this summer.

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