Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Imagine a world whereby...

.. donors didn't ask that toxic and flawed question "How much of my dollar goes to the cause"?

Well, this is a world that Dan Pallotta envisages if we are to make real impact on global issues. I'm with him on this one.

Dan dedicates an entire chapter (48 pages) in his book, Uncharitable, to this very topic.

The Chapter is called 'Stop Asking This Question'. It talks in detail about how this very question and the one measure associated with it is destroying any hope we have of solving world poverty or finding cures for major diseases.

As Dan says, "To continue using it is like using a broken thermometer to take your child's temperature. It is dangerous. Better to admit you don't know your child's temperature than to believe it is five degrees lower than it actually is. Bad information leads to bad outcomes".

He goes on..

"We must reject the notion that the present measuring apparatus is the best we can do. We must create a dynamic new solution to provide us with the answers to these questions (16 questions he suggests we should ask instead) in a systematic way. Simple measures provide simple distinctions. In the interest of simplicity, the "efficiency" measure allows for two possibilities - good or bad. Its methodology for making that distinction is flawed. Our assessments of charity need to make room for far more subtlety and must be far more accurate".

Some of the 16 questions Dan feels we need to ask include:

- What is the scale of the achievement, and are comparisons being made with achievements of equal scale?

- What is the incremental effect of a donation in the present moment?

- Is the value of the outcome being accounted for?

The list goes on, and I suggest you read the book for 'chapter and verse' on this incredibly important issue.

You may think this is far too big a problem to worry about or that you can't really influence it.

But on a practical, day to day basis you can by doing the following:

1 Stop apologizing to donors for $ spent on overheads, administration, fundraising. These are genuine costs that are actually necessary and part of the work you do to fulfill your mission.

2 Demonstrate genuine impact. Do this by telling stories. Have a bank of case studies available for every staff member to tell donors how their support is making a difference. Update this monthly.

3 Buy a copy of Uncharitable and share it with the entire organization, especially board members/trustees.