Protecting a charity’s brand. Also, how do you hold an advocacy group accountable?

Here are two articles for your consideration. The first illustrates the idea that if you have a recognizable brand and you want to keep it for a long time, you probably ought to defend it. The second addresses the issue of how to hold organizations accountable for the context of outcome measures, in other words whether they are actually having any impact in the world.

5/7 – Steve Nardizzi at Huffington Post – Protecting the Nonprofit Brand The CEO of Wounded Warrior Project gives a very persuasive explanation why WWP pursued litigation against charities that got too close to their name and their logo. If you’re building for the long-term and you want to have an impact for decades into the future you need to do a some things different from if you have an extremely short-term focus.


Good stuff for the nonprofit world – 5/8

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.


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

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.


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

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: (more…)

More good stuff on overhead ratios and impact 8/5

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. (more…)

More good stuff on overhead ratios and “worst charities” – 10-16-13

I’m adding a new category of good stuff, which will be called “impact” for the time being.

Here are some more articles worth attention but I don’t have enough time to comment in a full post. Here are the headlines, with links and a brief comment below:

  • When Good Is Not Good Enough –
  • To Get to the Good, You Gotta’ Dance With the Wicked
  • Why I Think Nonprofits Should Act More Like Businesses
  • Revisiting America’s worst charities and rethinking overhead: Interview with Kendall Taggart  
  • Investigators say police charity hired felons to raise donations




Outcome measures – On the other hand…

Moving to outcome measures won’t make things perfect in terms of evaluating charities.

There are some downsides to consider, as mentioned by Nonprofit QuarterlyWant Charities to be Evaluated Based on Impact? Be Careful What You Wish For.

The article raises three concerns, all of which we need to think about very carefully. I will mention the three issues and comment on each.

First, (more…)

Here is an outcome measure you would love to have. Would this be better than a low overhead ratio?

How would you like to share this with potential donors instead of describing your low overhead ratio?

Let’s say you are a child sponsorship organization.

Here’s your message:

Children sponsored in our program are

27 to 40 percent more likely to complete secondary school, and 50 to 80 percent more likely to complete a university education

than children in their village who were not in the sponsorship program.

Furthermore, when children sponsored in our program grow up, they are (more…)