Good stuff for the nonprofit world – 5/8

May 8, 2015, 8:20 am

A few articles on the nonprofit sector.

  • Do huge staffing levels in huge foundations have any impact on outcomes?
  • The widespread attitude towards ‘overhead’ that charities have to deal with.
  • How disaster reporting goes sour and what good outcome questions might look like in disaster relief.
  • Charities can now get dot-NGO and dot-ONG addresses.

Why do I mention the first two articles? They show the entire nonprofit world has a long way to go on outcome measures. I’m not sure there is even a tidbit of agreement on the right questions to ask, let alone measuring answers.

5/7 – David Callahan at Inside Philanthropy – Top Philanthropoids Are Paid Over $600 Million a Year. Is That Too Much? – Mr. Callahan is continuing his discussion I’ve mentioned here and here wondering if the humongous staffing levels at the gargantuan foundations makes any difference in the impact of those foundations.

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More good stuff on impact, outcome measures and overheads – 4/27

April 27, 2015, 10:42 am

A couple of articles on measuring outcomes and some discussion on the high cost of using telemarketers.

4/19 – Nonprofit Chronicles – Foundations, Nonprofits and Performance Anxiety – Marc Gunther describes a theater in Houston that sends an email survey to all customers the next day after a show. Their goal is to “enrich” and “stimulate” their audiences. The surveys ask questions to see if patrons get deeply involved. They want to know more than what the ticket count is.

Those are the kinds of outcome measures that nonprofits ought to be looking for, but aren’t.

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Does the mere size of the infrastructure in large foundations create an issue in itself?

April 13, 2015, 10:04 am

Here is an issue I’ve not seen before: Is the size of the infrastructure at humongous foundations a problematic issue just by itself?

David Callahan, writing at Inside Philanthropy on April 10, stretches my brain:  Ford Sinks Over $1 Billion a Decade Into Overhead. Is That Money Well Spent? – First, adjust that decade cost figure to annual.  That would be $100M a year.

In 2013, the Ford Foundation spent $146M on G&A out of $685M total expenses, according to the article.  That is 21.3%, which would usually be considered respectable.

The issue, according to the author, is their overall approach of making programmatic grants. That means the foundation chooses this study, that new effort, and another ongoing project. Which in turn means they drive the programs of their grant recipients. That heavy control approach requires a lot of staff.

Therein lies the rub, according to the author. With that approach, foundations gather power and authority unto themselves. At that scale, the agendas of the grant officers are driving the funding of lots of charities.

The author’s perspective: Read the rest of this entry »

More good stuff on looking at overhead or impact

March 9, 2015, 8:35 am

Here are a few more articles in the ongoing conversation of how to assess charities: overhead or impact.

2/25 – Christianity Today – Welcome to the Golden Age of Global Charity – Review emphasizes portion of book that describes the growing levels of accountability for effectiveness.

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More discussion on how to analyze a charity’s financial statements. Red Cross as an illustration.

January 19, 2015, 9:14 am

There is some dialogue in the nonprofit world on how to characterize the ‘overhead’ of American Red Cross. Here’s a few articles.

1/9 – ProPublica – Senator Demands Answers on Red Cross’ Finances – Sen. Grassley is asking the American Red Cross to explain the math behind their widely repeated public comments that 91% of donations go to their services. Article says their audited financial statements reportedly show that 26% of expenses are for fundraising.

01/2015 – Charity Watch – Don’t Be Misled by Deceptive Charity Efficiency Claims – Do you see a big difference between these two statements?

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An illustration why interpreting functional allocation information is difficult: the Wounded Warrior Project financials

October 24, 2014, 8:33 am

Apparently there is conflict going around on how to interpret the functional expense allocation information for Wounded Warrior Project.

All their info is laid out in their audited financial statements, which you can find here. Their annual report, audited financial statements, and 990s for the last eight years are all available on their website. Good on them for making all that info readily available. That is an example for all charities to follow.

How can three different calculations all be correct?

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More good stuff on overhead ratios and impact 8/5

August 5, 2014, 7:11 am

Here are a few more articles in the ongoing conversation of overhead and the “worst charities.”

Good discussions are developing on the Alliance for Charitable Trust Linked-In group. That’s where I found two of the following articles.

3/24 – Skoll world forum – Reimagining the ‘overhead’ debate– Article provides an example of full costing instead of ‘overhead’ ratios. The organization calculated the grand total of cost for their program in Malawi is $885,767. They then provided three paragraphs explaining what that $886K accomplished. Great illustration of outputs with several outcomes included in the narrative instead of a supporting services ratio. Donors can make their own decision whether that program deserves their support. Read the rest of this entry »


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