Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Good Works are Not Good Enough

I try to write a brief, pithy post that is to the point. However, when I saw this article I was deeply moved to repost it from Social Velocity

1. I strongly agree with it. Love, compassion, trying, caring, crying and good intentions are not enough.

2. Many non-profits, including churches, mission agencies and outreaches do little good or get very littl bang for the buck.

3. We need to get better at doing outcome research.

4. Sweeten Life is getting very good at planning, researching outcomes and doing good works well.

There is an increasing drumbeat in the world of social change that nonprofits must start measuring their work. The argument among thought leaders, funders, raters and others in the social change sector is increasingly that nonprofits MUST:

A. Figure out what they exist to do (a theory of change)
B. Create a disciplined operational model for creating that change
C. Measure whether the change is actually happening
D. Articulate that change in order to garner more support

But all of this is fairly new to the nonprofit sector and not yet widely practiced (by a long shot). In fact, some of these ideas are still quite controversial. Let’s take #2 for example, “Creating a disciplined operational model.” David Henderson analyzes this well in his post ...

He argues that nonprofits must become more discerning and disciplined about who they provide service to. Because nonprofits have limited resources, they cannot serve everyone. Therefore instead of serving people on a first come first served basis (which is the norm), they should instead serve those who they can best help. In other words, they should determine and then serve those populations of people who will benefit the most from their intervention:

In the case of the youth workforce development program, while all low-income youth would qualify for services, we might have a preference for placing people into the program who are likely to complete the internship. In this case, one could use historical data to fit a predictive model that provides some insight into what characteristics made an individual more or less likely to have completed the program in the past. Under this framework, social welfare maximization would involve not only placing people into the program, but maximizing the number of people in the program who complete the internship.

To the nonprofit world, which is very much focused on trying to help as many people as possible, this is a potentially radical idea. But if smartly employed, nonprofits could actually provide more social change through this disciplined method. And in an increasingly resource-constrained environment, it makes sense for nonprofits to want to get the highest return on their program resources.
In order to take this approach, however, nonprofits must have a theory of change. You cannot create social change if you don’t:

1. Know what you want that change to be, and

2. Measure whether that change is happening

(Sweeten Life is doing this and offering to help others do it. Call us to find out how you can get free assistance.)

In an increasingly competitive marketplace, it is getting harder and harder for nonprofits to attract support. The harsh reality is that those nonprofits that develop a smart theory of change, measure whether that change is happening, and then articulate the change to supporters will increasingly be the ones that survive. Not to mention that they will be the ones that actually create social change.  

Contact us for an assessment that will allow you to help your families help themselveswww.sweetenlife.com. FREE!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It just occurred to me that raising people from the dead might be enough to raise funds. However, I am not sure in these tough economic times. I have spent hours helping people get out of messes without a dime.