Study Calls for Greater Flow of Information in Philanthropic Sector
Each year, individuals, foundations and businesses in the U.S. give more than $300 billion to more than a million nonprofit organizations. But are these gifts going to the most effective organizations?
A recently released study by consulting group McKinsey & Co. for the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation urges that if nonprofits, foundations and donors want to increase their social impact, they need a more robust marketplace of information about charitable activity. The study sought to discover what information donors need to make smart decisions about giving and how the philanthropic sector can meet those needs to ensure the most effective nonprofits get the resources they need.
The study is based on exhaustive research that included surveying recent articles, books and research papers on U.S. philanthropy; examining hundreds of nonprofit and for-profit Web sites; reviewing lessons learned from Hewlett Foundation grants; conducting more than 50 interviews with donors, nonprofit leaders, foundation executives and others in the nonprofit arena; holding working sessions with key opinion leaders; and developing numerous case studies.
It offers three key suggestions for specific ways nonprofit organizations can improve the use of information and effectiveness of the nonprofit market:
1. Set goals and use performance metrics and tools to plan, execute and reflect.
"Setting clear social-impact and organizational-performance targets, and managing against them is critical to measuring success and refining strategies," the study advises.
This strategy doesn't require expensive tools or complex measures. Use simple tools that track activities, outputs and outcomes. Integrate performance management into day-to-day activities.
The study does note the need for standards for performance assessment that are accepted across the nonprofit sector, and better tools and frameworks for tracking and supporting nonprofit performance.
2. Share information about social impact and organizational performance. Gathering the right kinds of information is important, but it's not enough.