Nowadays I am involved in some very exciting projects, and would like to share with you some thoughts. By reflecting on the following issues, I have no intentions to convince you to adapt my view, and have no meaning to advocate for any system or line of operation; I rather wish to give you some food for thought. Something to reflect on when you have free time, some topics to discuss with colleagues, co-workers, directors, stakeholders, clients, etc. Ready To Think?! I hope you will also enjoy (:
Well, this is quite a sensitive issue, but since we all have some sort of relation to politics – I would like to raise the question: How much time do we invest in politics, and how much time is really required for making good out of it? By asking this question, think, and ponder on, I am trying to count, quantify, and evaluate the output of the time I invest into the issues such as:
* What belongs to whom, and why?
* Why X obeys to Y?
* Is a specific type of relationship between stakeholders really necessary?
* What structure brings the most powerful results?
* How much does crony capitalism (of any sort…) affect the organization?
The last question I ask myself is – what questions are relevant to my organization, and what is the benefit from discussing it?
2. Collaboration and collaborative action
This is another sensitive issue, but collaboration is a vital part of every organization, even if you do not realize it at first. You always want to leave doors open, you always want to collaborate, you can always share, and you do not have to always spy for sharks. They are out there, no doubt, but you can always find the benefit for the organization to grow from EVERY collaboration. Quit thinking in ego terms, and forget the matching part. Yes, do not forget if someone shuts the door on your face; BUT if they reopen it – go in and present yourself. Collaborate with similar organizations to learn and absorb; collaborate with complementary organizations to provide a better service to your clients; and collaborate with different organizations to amplify your impact and open your organizations to new directions. Forget, get read of competition terms, and find the benefit in collaborations. Believe me it works BIG time, even if not immediately.
The question is how and why do we invest on this connections, and how do we value them?
3. The board role
The fact that businessman basically manage the nonprofit world is pretty precise. But given this fact, there is a bunch of benefits and opportunities for every nonprofit organization. You can advocate for your organization and get support, you can learn some business methodologies, you can learn business terminology, you get to understand business way of thinking. Until here I counted what YOU can learn. But there is another side, not less exciting – you can teach new methods, you can advocate for compassion, you may teach some beneficial terminology, you may convince to think in a social profit terms, you can gain more support on your side. Yes you can. Use your board, and make them work for the organization.
I would ask myself, over and over, what can I do more in order to engage relevant individuals in helping the organization out? How can I engage relevant individuals on pursuing some issues? Trust me, when you start interview and engage board members out of the board room, aiming to address a specific need or a topic, you get to discover a treasure of opportunities.
In summary, I wrote about three issues only, whereas there are hundreds of them. However, my goal is to suggest a different way of reflection and analysis to managerial issues in nonprofits, and I trust my reader to interpret it their own way (:
Hello friends, I am now writing for over 6 months, and every time I publish something I feel that I somehow helped the world (: So thank you for reading my comments.
Today I’d like to focus on a very sensitive issue – outcomes measurement. Yeah! you need to measure. If you make money out of your activity – you may want to know what was the impact in order to maintain and retain clients; If you do nonprofit you may want to know what was the impact of your services, and how you can grow.
I will make my points simple and clear:
1. Feelings are not true. They are misleading. Never trust your senses or impressions. Measurement does not work this way, and this is why you want to employ it. Facts are usually different than what we tend to think… a smart women quoted me a very strong message 10 years ago:”without data you are just another person with an opinion”. This is still so true.
2. Your boss/es are not interested in statistics and data, they just want the work to be impactful. Really?! how are you going to know it? Write down your goals, translate into objectives, and have these objectives measured. Be the one who brings rational and data to the table, be the one to help the organization grow.
3. You must have some sort of education with regard to measurement and evaluation. If you do not have, you are having very high possibilities to be mistaken. The most problematic trajectories are: questionnaires design and data analysis. I have seen thousands of questionnaires in my life so far, almost each one of them contained a critical mistake, which turns the whole business to be useless. So, bear in mind, neither your MBA nor MSW qualified you to write questionnaires and interpret data. Use professional advice.
4. What are you planning to do with the data? make sure there is a good reason to collect data and evaluate. Once you have the data, make the best out of it. Translate it into strategic steps and apply it. Then, recheck your performance and adjust accordingly.
Thank you for thinking and reading! On the next post I will share an example for a measurable impact questionnaire I created, for free use. Please stay tuned and subscribe (:
The world is complicated, there are so many causes to donate money to, and your spare time and / or money to donate are limited. The questions of how to give, to whom, and why, are getting an increasing attention due to the growing needs on the one hand, and a shrinking amount of donated money and time on the other hand.
Nevertheless, the issue of giving has not got enough thinking and discussion so far, in my opinion, although it is only reasonable to assume that ones will want to know what profit their money can generate. Even in terms of the not for profit sector, it is still true and plausible to expect high efficiency, effectiveness, and return on investment.
Therefore, I have developed a simple Four Questions Test in order to assist donors in decision making regarding donating their time or money.
Question # 1: What does the organization do? A clear answer is required here. Neither vision nor mission statement are needed here.
The very simple answer is what is done by the organization.
Want three clear examples? HereYouGo.
Question # 2: Is it the most important cause you can donate to? The answer to this question is a bit tricky, and requires framing an opinion by asking yourself what is your definition of the best cause(s) to give to. The basic assumption is that you want to help as many as you can, which means you want to make the best out of your investment. Think about it and develop your view. You may find This Inspiring Book helpful. Although the author claims that poverty alleviation should be number one priority for everyone of us, I still find this book very helpful in shaping your mind in regard to finding the cause that close to your preferences of helping others.
Question # 3: What are the organization’s overhead costs?
Not a fancy question to ask, but you deserve an answer. As a general rule, you may expect no more than 15% overhead costs. More than this percentage, or worse – no information in this regard raise a question mark. A big one. Bear in mind, your money is limited, and you want to generate the higher profit possible. Assuming that – it is your duty to do your research and find out if the overhead costs are within the range. (And a personal note, I do not believe in crazy fundraising costs either, whether they are conveniently calculated out of the overhead costs or not! 20% or more of fundraising costs seem unacceptable to me, because it basically says that you cut 20 cents out of each dollar you give. You can do better with you money for sure.)
Question # 4: What is the Return on Investment?
This term has countless definitions, but only one bottom line – what is the percentage of the generated profit in the project? Clear answer is required here. How much your dollars worth within the project/organization?! The ratio between investment and its return is very easy to catch. You should ask and get this information from the organization/s you wish to support. Any ratio above 1:1.5 is considered good profit in my opinion, because it is basically reflects 150% profit, and this is a clear indicator of doing good with your money, and making it worth more. The same process you do with your for profit investments applies here as well. (And another personal note here… I do not buy excuses in this issue. Every organization has the duty to measure, evaluate, and research itself on an ongoing basis, and part of it, is getting to know the organization’s services/activities’ impact in terms of dollars.)
Now, take a pen and paper and answer the questions.
If you do not know the answers – research. Do it diligently, because you want the best profit out of your money.
If an organization you consider to support does not provide with the information – ask to get it.
If an organization does not have the information – reconsider your intentions. You will not know where the money goes, what is done, and what is your return, so better to think twice, and research better options within your fields of interest.
Ready to think?! Go ahead and do the best you can.
Some clarification notes (in response to many emails and comments I have received):
1. Every donor follow their heart. I am not trying to convince anyone to choose any cause which is not their focus of giving. Do what you think is right.
2. Overhead costs is not a synonym of salaries. It includes rent and other costs… and yes in many cases there are too high costs of fundraising. It seems unreasonable to me to spend only 60-50% of donors money on the mission (assuming this mission really happens). However, there are many cases such as a small organization, starting-up a new project, or increasing of fundraising effort in which higher costs are acceptable. I give you food for thoughts, and you do the math.
(….And by the way, let’s phrase it a bit differently please… assuming that it is impossible to have 15% overhead costs and only 30% or so is a relevant expectation, plus every organization that tells you they have less than 30% overhead simply “plays with the numbers”… just makes the problem worse!!! No one wants to show high overhead costs, right?! so if they say they have 40% fundraising costs (or overhead), you may derive the inevitable conclusion – they spend much more than this amount. So, where does donors money go?!)
3. Salaries – I am a big believer of decent salaries, and will never support anyone who thinks that the sector’s workers need to sacrifice themselves because they help others. BUT if you chose to help others do not find excuses why you deserve the largest car and a crazily high 6 figures salary. It is not fair for your donors, and it is not fair for your employees; and it is bad to our world to have people who think they are the only talented people to bless earth, and the world owe them back.
4. Reading the comments I have received proved me something I already new. I am a millennial. This is it (:
5. Cyber-bullying, even with a fake cover of legitimate discussion, is disgusting and very harmful. Think twice before you shoot someone just because you disagree with them. (By the way the impression about your style of talking to others does not do good to you either… even if my ESL is not perfect, I bet you understand perfectly everything I write. I am also kinda sure my first language level is far better than the first language of many educated and smart commenters).
6. Very nice examples of organizations that use donor’s money efficiently (and there are many more, Find them and support them): UNICEF Plan Canada United Way
Last time I wrote about the possibilities collaborations may open your organization to, and I focused on the very fact that there are people who need a boost or encouragement in order to internalize this basic element of organization’s healthy life. I eventually summarized that most of the managers are luckily capable of this, and may collaborate with other organizations, at least for the sake of their own performances.
Today, I would like to focus on another essential fact of collaboration which is the benefit of the society. I would call it Synergy… when your organization collaborates with another organization, you create a new opportunity, which in turn benefits your organization, the other organization, and your and theirs clients.
However, the most important point, in my view, is that you have created a much larger benefit – you have made a new opportunity of positive influence and connection, that can lead the world to be a better place to live in. Think about it, you did not just “do good” to your own performance at work, and so not your collaborative partner, you did not just create a good service for your clients, you have also made the world a positive environment to be in.
So, next time when you are successful in collaborative efforts, bear in mind – you have just did something good for the whole society.
Are you ready to think?! Let’s start (:
Today’s’ lesson is about a great Executive Director, who I met in networking recces at a professional conference. The conference happened to be a great place for me to grow the network for an organization I work with, and I planned to do it the best I could.
Just a short background – I work with a nonprofit which provides services to other nonprofits’ clients. Without a large network they cannot make a real impact, so it is essential to grow the network proactively. That ED was contacted in the past but never wanted to really collaborate, although the very fact that both organizations may highly benefit from having their clients satisfied and living decent life…
I have decided to go talk to the ED no matter what the result will be. The conversation started with big No No, “we will not collaborate”. Exact words! You could have feel the energy of saying “No” so sharply… but I have decided something, right?!, so stuck to my point I said: “But you know your organizations’ clients will be incredibly benefited from our services, and you know no other organization in the area has this type of great capacity and operations”. As an answer I got a business card with email address on it… later that night I received a reply “Yes, we will do it”.
And I say GO FOR IT my friends. Once you have a goal to do good – do it and convince others to collaborate with you. It is a universal true – we all want to do good and help others, so if you happen to be in a position that allows you to do good – make an effort and make it happen, and never forget – collaboration is absolutely possible.
Ahhmmm…. got to tell you I am excited.
In the past weeks, I have had the opportunity to meet many professionals virtually, especially thanks to our lovely brother LinkedIn. I found myself in a process of learning, that I missed so much! well, enough with the introductions, let’s start thinking (-:
I would like to take it one step ahead, and correct me if I am wrong, the operations-minded people are usually dealing with something we can touch, or at least can see impact simply just by looking what the organization does – water, agriculture, farms, vaccines, you name it. The impact measurement in this type of organizations is a short and sweet ROI analysis. Efficiency, effectiveness, benchmark, and performance measurement are relatively easy to conduct, as well as goals and objectives setting.
Another important suggestion was to collaborate and cooperate, and even amalgamate organizations that do the same/similar work. I agree with this way of thinking but would like to ask you managers – will you work on your ego and let another organization to work with you or instead of you? Think about it. If it works – there may be great, extremely successful models of business supply chain management, which employ this attitude – more for less – by a chain of organizations. Phrase it like this: The bottom-line is the VALUE profit. As long as there are organizations which may do the same, or even better than your organization – the real impact will be achieved by working together, and collaborate. It also saves you money, and reduces costs!
I know it is the hard part of managers’ ego, but probably one of the realistic ways to save the sector alive in terms of impact.
In short, the question to ask yourself is this – What is your organization’s unique selling proposition? What is your competitive advantage on others? What is the special value your organization creates? You supposed to have a very good answer to this question.
An additional note in this regard, is Collective Impact. Someone referred me to the collective impact website. I researched it, and browsed the web, and I must compliment them for doing the first operations step – creating coalitions and collaborations in order to increase the impact. However, this is only the first necessary step. The sector is getting shrunk, and will continue this trend, therefore there is a vital need to amalgamate or eliminate ineffective programs, not just collaborate.
The Social Value Impact Aspect
The problem of impact comes to life again when we deal with the social hot potato, and you know what?! I am dealing with it!
There is certainly a broad agreement on the need, although I must admit that I am still shocked to see huge foundations refuse to measure themselves (ego and power issues??)… But let’s put it aside. Just another small reference – social enterprises are a relatively small part of the nonprofit sector. I will never call them the “forth sector”, because they are not. I will never agree that they act differently than the third sector, they are value-driven, and this is the crucial aspect. They DO NOT care about money more than value, and DO NOT care about profit and value the same way. Therefore they DO NOT have double bottom-line, but one, and the last is very similar to the pure nonprofits. I can count few real social enterprises, but they will be again the ones we can touch – bakery, restaurant, agriculture, cafe, and the like.
Show me one social services enterprise… it ain’t exist, because it is impossible, and here comes the social impact measurement to help us.
I did not define Standardization last time, so here it is: in my opinion is needs to be simple. The metrics should include up to 4 core elements, which will be relevant across the sector. By this, there will be an option to compare between one organization to another. There is an option to add as many as indicators you like and want, and it won’t harm the metrics, but will give your organization the specific information you are looking for.
So, this is my review, happened somehow to be very small and narrowed…
I rank tools in 1-3 scale. 1=low, 2=medium, 3=high. Hence, the highest total score is 9.
I try to keep it as simple as possible, so do not rank 1-10 or something like that.
An important note! If your organization does not have a work plan which included vision, goals, and objectives, you cannot employ social impact measurement at this time. You MUST define the above in advance. Do not know how to do it? Drop in my post on setting goals, and keep up the good work!
SROI I love this measure, however and in short, this does not apply in many social services and education nonprofits. If you are dealing with employment or any other outcomes which involve money, this may be the measure for you. Usefulness (1): Applies to a narrow type of organizations (usually employment services, financial assistance, micro finance, and similar) Friendliness (1) If you do not learn it thoroughly, and gain lots of knowledge – you probably won’t be able to conduct a reliable SROI analysis Standardization (2) This part gets high score, because lots of research has been done, however there is no option to apply it broadly enough. Total score: 4/9, 44%/100%
GRI / IRIS I like the business attitude. This metrics will not save your life, but definitely will give you a way to benchmark your organization. This tool is used by many for-profits in order to monitor their performance, so I would rank it as the following: Usefulness (1): it gets a low score here, because I am not sure how it is going to help many organizations in their day-to-day management in terms of measuring social outcomes. However some organizations might fall under the suggested social objectives, so I suggest to check it out. Friendliness (2): the tool seems to be highly recommended and highly used by a variety of organizations. It does not gain the 3 points, because it does not fit every organization. Standardization (2): you win the entire pot here. The tool is absolutely standardized, and you may feel free to compare your organizational performance to similar organizations in the industry. It is a huge advantage. I ranked it 2, because it does not apply in every field. Total score: 5/9, 55%/100%
Social Impact Bonds (SIB)
I like the idea of social finance, because it makes much sense. It really builds a reputation for impact investing. In short, the system is designed to invest money in social projects, in order to PREVENT problems from reoccurring in the future (such as second-generation issues, recidivism, unemployment in specific sectors, etc.). The model briefly works by this: funding is given > intervention is made > evaluation of outcomes is conducted > in case of success (i.e. less recidivism, more employment) the government returns money to the investors. Even though I like the idea, I have no clue regarding the metrics and indicators they are using in order to evaluate social programs… it does not seem standardized or friendly, but it is just my outsider opinion.
Moreover, in my opinion, the social impact bonds model seems to fit to a narrow type of outcomes, kinda similar to SROI. Total score: Unknown!
My list is much shorter than expected. I reviewed over 10 tools and methodologies, but did not like them at all, so why to mention them?
With that said, when it comes to social services and education, and other soft, hard-to-touch outcomes, the measures and indicators become useless. No usefulness, no friendliness, no standardization. Nothing helps. Therefore we must agree that there is another way to measure, and you know what?! it is not the kind, the gentle one… it is about achieving your objectives, measuring your VALUE. It is that simple.
Your objectives include “improvement of students’ grades”? Show the improvement, between the beginning of the year and the end. Your objectives include “women’s empowerment”? Define what empowerment is, let’s say, they will be more responsible for their day-to-day tasks. Show they have changed their behavior/attitudes.
Do not use excuses like “they are happy”, “their self esteem is higher”, “I feel it”… these are NOT your objectives, and therefore not the social value you wanted to create.
Warning! the content may make some of you feel uncomfortable, and full of thoughts. I apologize in advance, and yet write about it.
Got to start with a short story… why? because this is the trigger for this very blast.
As you have already noticed, I do not write this blog for a long time, nevertheless I spent almost a decade (and counting) in management consulting in all its glory… and have a backlog of crazy stuff I want to share with you…
Once upon a time there was a large organization. Actually there were several of them, because it is going too sound you too familiar. The senior executives in this organization are the world’s smartest people, only God is smarter than them. The one and only wisdom is in their hands, and if they say so and so, you gotta say only one word: Yes.
The smartest people sometimes hold two nice shiny letters prior to their first name, yes you guess correctly – DR. Sometimes it takes the shape “PhD” afterward their last name. In any case they absolutely completed their third degree. I do honour each one of them. I have not completed mine yet.
So the smartest people were sitting in the Board of Directors and before letting anyone say a word in regard to an impact evaluation, they refused it out of hand, case closed. Why? because they do not need to know more, they can design it – just 2-3 questions, what’s the big deal??
In a different occasion they just ignored some suggestions for improvements, why? because they are the ones to know, not anyone else.
The story is the introduction for my little lecture below… ready to think?! I start… (-:
Smart people are smart and knowledgeable, but they certainly do not know everything. Assuming that their PhD is in Physics, they must know better than others in this field. If their PhD is in Nonprofit Management, they must be knowledgeable about the sector, but they are surely not experts in methodology, or business management, unless they have additional experience and education.
…and now I get to the main point: only methodologists are methodologists. Yes, every other academic has conducted research to some degree in some point of their academic career. However! that does not make you an expert in research methods. If you are a good manager, I believe you have great skills, but please do not assume you know to write a survey or design measurement tools. Mmm… no, you do not! You do not know how to define your question, gather data properly, you do not know how to create metrics, you doubtfully know how to analyze data, and utterly do not know to interpret it. If you want to know how to do the above – gain a set of skills and earn some experience.
I may generalize and say that my message above is right for every field, from business management to mathematics, and the bottom line is – respect the knowledge – it may help you more than you imagine! You know a lot, but be careful and aware of your boundaries. If something does not fall under your expertise, you better ask for professional help, or at least respect the advice given by people who hold education and experience in that area.
I also suggest to look around, you may notice extremely successful organizations that use experts in many aspects, there must be a reason to do so… (-:
By the way, I was really searching a movie for this post, because I hate thinking of myself as someone who is just teasing and criticizing, and not giving something relaxing for a change (-:
So, three birds in one stone, “The Beautiful Mind” : I love Russell Crowe, I truly like the movie, and I also find it inspiring and conveying the message. What is the message in my opinion? Short and sweet: Keep calm and respect experts (even when you think they are nuts!)
My post that dealt with the lack of measurement in success terms has led some enlightening comments from my colleagues and past managers, so I have decided to dedicate my coming posts to research this field and dig a bit more. It should be noted that I have done some research in the past, and sort of consider myself as someone who gained some knowledge re SROI or other impact measurement efforts, however insufficient and this is why I find it imperative to research now.
Another note before we dive-in… I plan to write a series of posts in this topic. Firstly, I would like to cover some methodology, i.e. set some conditions for my research. Secondly – review existing solutions in respect to the methodology. Finally, I hope to come to conclusion with the most relevant tools or suggestions for the future.
Ready to think?! Let’s do it!
The first and above all is the question WHY do we need to measure impact in social projects? It is indeed a vital and important question, and… I have a very good answer in my pocket. A very smart senior executive and philanthropist, emailed me the following statement, based on his extensive experience with foundations: about 85% of the funding in social projects is going lost without achieving its goal. These are insane numbers my friends. A simple math will reveal a bare truth. In the US itself ~333.5 billion dollars were donated in 2013. However, based on the above, we can cut out about $300 billion. I stop here, because it hurts to think in global terms (not to mention the lovely governmental “match”). I am sure most of you already know that there is a critical issue with funding-impact ratio, and this statement is just the straw to break the camel’s back. It was for me, anyway, and as a consequence I have decided to write a wake-up and start thinking post.
Are you ready to think with me?! I suggest you to comment here or by email, and I promise to integrate your thoughts and credit you in my next posts. I honestly believe that we can work together in order to achieve this goal, as we all have one mission – to find a decent solution. But! we cannot accept every solution. I have developed several criteria in order to consider a route to be a solution, and you are welcome to add more or suggest adjustments:
1. Usefulness To what extent can we use the measures in day-to-day management? and by this I talk about the dual role of metrics. I hold this opinion for years, and every time I state it, people are looking at me if I had fallen from the moon. But I actually did not, as long as I recall I was born on earth (-:
So if I get back to the point – the dual role is enabling the use of metrics/measures by both sides, the foundation/funding body and the charity/organization alike. No more measurement for THEM, no more shortening of evaluation time and tools. You want it for your organization because YOU deserve to know what the hell is going on!
The issue of usefulness hit me like crazy back in 2007, when I was working with senior managers in social services, whom their project was founded by a very large north-American federation. They did not want to measure, nor to learn – they already knew the true, thanks, but no need to measure at all. I asked them why they despise it so much, and they simply said – it is too much work for our overloaded staff, we have no spare time for collecting useless data… they added that they already know the ins and outs so well, so no evaluation or measurement will enlighten anything.
It hit me again when I read Jed Emerson’s post last week, especially here: “I recall a breakout session presentation by one of the world’s best known impact investment organizations—one that appears on everyone’s list of favorite impact funds—listening to a nuanced and well-considered presentation by their head of impact performance. Following the formal PowerPoint show that included impressive definitions, charts and data, the presenter was asked, “How do these impact metrics inform your work?” to which the presenter responded, “Oh—we don’t actually use these metrics in our work. We just need them to give our funders!” After everyone had a good laugh, he said, “No, no—I’m serious—we don’t use them at all!” Peals of continued laughter echoed…”
Things are about to get worse, my dear readers, not a long ago I met a very senior level manager who works for a wealthy foundation. It happened to be with some connection to one of the projects in which I have been involved in the past, so I was more than curious to learn how they used the data and metrics we sent then for review. Sorry to disappoint you – they did not. They donated the money and forgot about it, and the real hell is yet to come – they never use metrics for themselves, as a foundation… and you know what?! they are absolutely not alone. The same shock made me shake, back in 2011 when I realized that a billion dollar foundation NEVER measures impact, never tried to develop something useful, and moreover when I was trying to educate them I got the same feeling of Mars and Venus, Earth and Moon, whatever you name it, I bet you understand me.
If so, I conclude: we need something useful – something that people will want to use, need to use, and feel it’s helpful. And please twice, one for the giving side, one for the taking one. I would say that in this aspect we have to talk business, and learn from business cases how to measure ONCE and EFFICIENTLY for more than one stakeholder.
To what extent normative managers can use the measures in day-to-day management? and by this I talk about managers who do not have extensive research background.
It reminds me one of my nonprofit job interviews (-: funny story actually, especially if you consider my very limited knowledge about this sector back then, and specifically the funding issue. The position was highly customer-faced, and dealt with measurement and evaluation in education and social services. The interviewers, there were two of them, asked me if I think that every social service manager or every school principal should use SPSS (yes, the statistical package). I was sure they are kidding, but they did not, so I answered “of course NOT, they can use Excel which is much easy to adapt, use and learn”, and got the job.
I tell you this story, because I will never agree that managers need to be researchers. They certainly do not! they need to do their job, to manage! and metrics is just another great tool to facilitate decision making and performance measurement. Yes, it is an essential tool, one to be top prioritize for every manager in the nonprofit sector. Yet, I wonder how this vital tool will become friendly and suit every normative manager? I think we can again keep an eye on good business practices. We also may bear in mind that we want something simple, Excel based, and easy to collect data and interpret.
I have to warn you, I got together with enough organization that invested tons of money in IT solutions for their database, and sadly I can barely count the organizations that really USE this information. They often tend to forget about it, and when they tried to retrieve some data, it was always such a burden, and poor quality.
I would also like to add one more thing, I believe in short things. What do I mean? I never like the idea of tons of questions or gathering endless information, we are not conducting an academic study (NO we are not!), we have a mission to measure the impact. In order to do that we have to keep in mind that there are busy people who realistically cannot dedicate themselves to information gathering as their life mission, and therefore it has to be short and useful, not just short, not just useful. BOTH.
If I summarize my impressions and thoughts in this respect, and would say that there is a vital need for a FRIENDLY and RELEVANT tool to measure nonprofits performance. I do not want to sound as criticizing some existing measures, but I feel they are too complicated, and may not be a good answer to address the friendliness need.
3. Standardization: to what extent we can expect to use the same measurement for a wide range of projects? I will leave this measure open for your comments, because I already, kind of, formatted this so firmly in my mind, and I feel too strict…
Hope you enjoyed the reading. Please comment, share and subscribe to my newsletter, I promise to make you think (-:
P.S. – A super-talented friend of mine who works in the industry and does a great job with impact an so on, read this post before published, and was quite amazed that I still insist to make efforts to spread these ideas. He said: “You have got to forget SROI and this, no one wants to learn, no one wants to know, they know everything. Even when I try to spoon feed them they won’t listen”. Well, I dedicate couple of songs to you, keep calm and continue doing your great job. Good times are just about to come (-:
Click here if you want to listen the songs. None of them fully expresses my purpose, but absolutely set the tone.
I am in love with the not-for-profit sector, I switched around 2006 and almost never look back. I love the idea of helping people, doing good to others, support the world, and make my living as a by-product.
However, I must say that I feel a bit worried. While many great things are happening around, the nonprofit sector seems to stay aside and wait. Wait for what?! you do a great job, however you must understand – there is an essential need to measure your performance. Do not get me the wrong way – YOU need it. not your boss, certainly not the funding organization, not your manager, and not your board of directors. You need it, and you deserve to know what works and what not.
I do believe that not-for-profit is not for profit, but if we are so confident in that – let’s ask: what are you there for? yes, I get you. You are there to help, to support, to facilitate, to give a hope. I agree, I am absolutely with you. However… how do you know that you really help, support, facilitate, etc.?
Let’s get straight to the point – you need to measure. You have to measure your impact, to benchmark between projects, to justify budgets. You cannot just do the “on the surface” stuff like counting and have nice graphs. Because the question: “how many people used our service in the last 12 months?” is a very good question, but what about the impact? what about the help, support, facilitation and so on? The question: “how many people were satisfied from our service?” is a neat question, however does not provide with any insight of your communal impact.
The questions, mistakenly perceived as unimportant, irrelevant, or annoying, are dealing with your impact. This impact can be evidently measured and give you a very clear picture of what works and what not.
Ask yourself – What is the difference between projects? Why project X and not project Y? Why project X must continue? What project holds the highest SROI? What project has got significant impact on your client’s life?
If you do not have answers to these questions – you better start to work on your impact measurement very soon.
The process of impact measurement will be described in my future posts, so stay tuned and feel free to subscribe to the newsletter.
I know – this is almost boring. Actually it is boring, why do I try to embellish reality?!
You have heard over thousands times that goals need to be S.M.A.R.T., and you are tired of it. You are tired because you need a reason to believe that it is going to help.
I used to feel frustrated when meeting with managers who do not like the idea of a work-plan, or do not find the time to do that, or whatever… But you know what?! that is why I started this blog, I wanted to write my thoughts and insights so I can express my enjoyment and belief that these processes really work and benefit organizations. Writing a work-plan may be a real fun, as long as you understand why you do it, and HOW to do it. I promise to do my best and explain the basics as well as the advanced, so if you are ready to think – we go on it, together, right now (-:
As a consequence, you must be able to connect these two, and be able to measure, define, criticize, and change your goals and plans.
So, how do you set goals and objectives? Pretty simple actually. We need to clearly split three elementary parts of a work-plan:
The vision is the wish, the large picture, the general direction, the utopia. The vision is usually articulated by senior executives, mainly board of directors members, and from my experience visions are usually good, and often very impressive. The vision typically includes one to two very meaningful sentences, where every word worth its weight in gold, or at least supposed to. I certainly agree that vision phrasing may take a while, however I am not that convinced it should take forever, and completely disagree with “no vision yet” or a “dead-end” circumstances and excuses. I am very sharp at this point because I see no logic in doing your job when you do not know where to go, and what is the purpose; or even worse – when your employees are lost. (let me put something here – no, you do not work just to earn your salary or remain employed). So, in short – message #1 is: have your vision handy.
Once we are done (if you are not – I promise to write soon on how to write a vision effectively and efficiently, so stay tuned…), and we have our vision – we need to break the vision to small pieces, the goals. Not too small, let’s say up to seven, and the most safe is something between 3-5. I know that there are managers who like the details, or feel that every word needs to get strong attention, or any other persuasive explanation – I suggest you to take it as an exercise – try to focus on 3-5 most important messages from the vision. Why? because you plainly want to do it, and hold it in front of you. Another helpful tip is to extract 3-5 single words that describe the vision the most.
In order to keep yourself in truck – bear in mind, this should take no more than 3-6 meetings with your relevant team, as long as everyone takes notes independently, and do their homework. (however large organization may stretch it to a process, but still no more than 10 meetings with all of the relevant people are needed).
I suggest the following structure: meeting #1: overall view and open discussion regarding the most important messages from the vision; take notes, do your homework and conference back in meeting #2: the most important messages analysis – you should have a list to narrow. The final product is the 3-5 “raw” goals. This stage may take more than one meeting, but in my opinion and based on my experience – the efficient organizations will benefit the most… In meeting #3 the focus is on phrasing the goals. As I said at the beginning – this is not the SMART stage, we will have it later on. For now you need to just phrase 3-5 full, but short, sentences that express the vision and call for action. In short – message #2: write your goals shortly and clearly, in light of the vision.
I was trying to think of example that will facilitate my explanation above in a friendly way, and that is why I chose a corny one – Coca-Cola. This document shows Coca-Cola’s 2020 vision, and I recommend you to take a glance especially at the left side – 2020 mission (Vision here), our vision (Words here) , our goals (Goals here). I am not 100% fan of their structure, but I think it gives a clear idea for managers who want to pursue planned processes.
In short: > Vision: the big picture, usually contains a very small number of meaningful sentences. > (Words/Raw goals: the fractions of the vision, the words that describe the vision) > Goals: the actions needed to be taken in order to practice the theory
Part #2 of this article will be covering the connection between goals and objectives, an improved SMART model, and a wrap up of my arguments re vision-goals-objectives.
P.S. I am more than sorry for not entertaining you today with a must watch movie… I could not trace a relevant one in my mind – but will be happy to get your ideas, please share them in comments or email. In the meantime live happily.