Introduction: reading my post about system thinking and program evaluation, Ron mentioned a close practice that incorporate both budget and planning. I am glad he agreed to write a guest post about the topic, and hope you will find it fascinating too.
Moreover, this is the first blog post for 2018! and opening the year with such a great topic is a good reason to celebrate (:
In ancient days, meaning the 1960’s, Planning, Programming, Budgeting Systems (PPBS) was considered an innovation in budgeting. PPBS was first introduced in the Defense Department in the USA in 1961 by Robert McNamara, and in all departments in 1965 until 1975. Though it failed to be widely adopted in government, PPBS is effective is less complex organizations such as NGO’s.
PPBS is an integrated management system that places emphasis on the use of analysis for program decision making. The purpose of PPBS is to provide management with a better analytical basis for making program decisions, and for putting such decisions into operation through an integration of the planning, programming and budget functions. Program decision making is a fundamental function of management. It involves making basic choices as to the direction of an organization’s effort and allocating resources accordingly. This function consists first of defining the objectives of the organization, then deciding on the measures that will be taken in pursuit of those goals, and finally putting the selected courses of action into effect.
An organization can be viewed in a simplified way as carrying out its functions through five basic and sequential phases: (1) planning, (2) programming, (3) budgeting, (4) operations, and (5) evaluation.
Specification of Objectives– The objectives of the programs are to be specified in consistence with the long-term goals in quantitative terms as far as possible.
Systemic Analysis – The possible alternative projects to achieve the program objectives are analyzed in a systematic way with the use of cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analysis.
Functional Classification – The budget is classified on a functional basis like functions, programs, projects and activities.
Organization– Budget formulation addresses the organizational structure, managerial and administrative procedures of the programs/projects/activities.
Evaluation – The mechanism for evaluation of performance on the basis of financial and physical performances to monitor, and take corrective actions, if necessary.
Each of these phases consists of a distinct but related function in the overall conduct of the organization’s affairs.
Planning is an analytical activity carried out to aid in the selection of the organizations objectives and then to examine courses of action that could be taken in the pursuit of the objectives. Planning, in effect, poses the question of whether some particular course of action would contribute more to the attainment of the organization’s goal than its various alternatives.
Programming is the function that converts plans into a specific action schedule for the organization. Programming consists of developing detailed resource requirements and the actions needed to implement plans.
Budgeting is the activity concerned with the preparation and justification of the organization’s annual budget. The function of budgeting is to secure sufficient funds to put the program into operation.
Operations consists of the actual carrying out of the organization’s programs. Preparing for operations is the object of all the other phases.
Evaluation is the function that evaluates the worth of operating programs. Through program evaluation the worth of programs in attaining goals is measured and appraised. The result of evaluations is used to modify current operations, if indicated, or in planning future programs.
PPBS provides an opportunity for identifying the program alternatives which offer the biggest pay-off in achieving communal objections, or require lower costs, and these can be singled out for priority attention by planning groups.
Professionals involved in program evaluation projects occasionally find that their understanding of how the work will be used and adapted by the organization does not necessarily parallel their clients’ perception of the project.
The DIY Method, a unique tool I developed, proves to make a vast difference in both collaborative work and the process of organizational performance, changes of policy, and program evaluation capabilities. The DIY Method begins at buildingcapacity. We aim to include all managers and stakeholders in the process of program evaluation to better find common ground and agree on the initial need for the evaluations. Secondly, we seek to clarify the research question and discover the gaps in information about the program or initiative. It is vital to recognize what is unknown and requires further investigation. Thirdly, assuming that our research question is well defined, we then focus on constructing research tools for program managers or officers to use for data collection. These tools contain basic statistics and cross-tabulations to assist in day-to-day management. They can either be simple Excel based software, or built into the CRM or preexisting organizational database. It is decided by the clients which method works best and allows for smooth and beneficial program evaluation. This stage may take some time as there is a need to adjust, apply, and modify the tools to contribute with managerial decisions and facilitate formative program evaluation. Our professionals are there to help create a beneficial environment and assist with program evaluation tool implementation.
When all is working and in place, our consultants analyze the data collected for the quarter or year, and articulate a research report to summarize the results, data, and trends. A significant portion of our time is dedicated to writing practical recommendations, supplying a beneficial use for evaluations, and assisting with continuous work to facilitate a smart and successful atmosphere for decision making and operations.
If this method of work interests you and you are curious to learn more, contact me today for a FREE initial consultation!
In the following series of posts, I will introduce, review, discuss, explain, and examine the wicked topic of systems, by integrating several disciplines of knowledge (such as physics and sociology).
I will talk about actual consequences and implementations related to the social element in our life. By “social” I refer to the knowledge, perception, and practice about the human society. The materials I use are taken from academic books, lectures, YouTube videos, peer reviewed journals and so on.
The basic of systems thinking is that there is interrelationships between everything to everything. In simple words, what goes around comes around. This is not random this expression is using the round shape. It is circular. Think for a moment about earth, rounding around itself, rounding around the sun, other stars rounding around on the same system, the milky way within the galaxy, the galaxy within universe, and so forth. Step back, and see the same pattern for humanity. A child was born, circled by family, circled by broader family, circled by neighborhood, city, country, human beings, etc. now, add more components (let’s call them “agents”) to the system. Wild life, weather, forests, energy. Another frequent example is to imagine cloudy sky. We automatically know it’s going to rain, and then the sky will be blue again.
Russel Ackoff (2000) explains what is a system: “A system is whole which cannot be divided to parts, the system is dependent on how the parts interact, not how parts act alone. An example: life, our body; part of cars”.
We live in a never-ending system. In effect this is an infinite system, which is interrelated, and every agent is affecting other agents, and those relationships cause a dynamic change of the system. In fact, we are part of this complex dynamic system, and what we do is undoubtedly affecting other agents, in so many ways, shapes, and variations, but we tend not to see it, because we are not used to it, we think linearly. We see straight lines. Cause and effect. A straight arrow from A to B. A led to B. we are having a hard time to internalize the obvious fact that it is a circle.
This may sound weird to you, but before getting familiar with Physics (especially quantum theory and information theory), and systems thinking in general, I was doubtful and considered myself a woman of facts and strong reality, with a special affection to multiple linear regression.
Therefore, repeatedly, Peter Senge introduced this topic of systems thinking in his book “the fifth discipline”, and in other lectures on (2014), with the very clear statement that Gut and heart are fundamental for every process of effective learning and action; and leader are the key. We firstly grasp it from the heart, then we translate it to thinking.
Ricardo Valerdi (2011) is convinced that system thinking is not a natural act. He explains that interruptions distract us from what we are doing; our brain is limited to boundaries of complexity and dynamics. As an example, he mentions Dan Ariely – “predictably irrational” book – on how people tend to wrong decisions because of abilities limitations.
In summary, systems thinking is not natural to us, we are not used to it, our school systems educate us to think linearly, however once we start seeing the patterns, interrelationships, grasp the complexity as a life fact, it is a matter of time, until we view the world utterly differently. Moreover, with enough practice, we can leverage our potential to achieve much better results, and avoid repeating problems.
As Senge says in his book “the fifth discipline” (1994): most of the problems we face as a humanity, reflect our inability to grasp and internalize complex problems.
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
Yesterday we had good friends for coffee and laughing… and high conversation… and when I woke up I just knew it, I knew that I am going to post about the passion of doing what you love, nothing but what you love (:
All of us, at some point of our life, or should I say many times on our life… feel stuck. Stuck in what we do, who we are, who with share our life with, our career, our children, you name it… But since my blog is focusing on management – let’s focus on “problematic” points in management, such as employees who resist to change, organizational stress, impossible deadlines, large projects that go nowhere, and so on…
Well, I have noticed two types of coping with those feelings:
* Fight it, and change things the way YOU prefer
* Accept it, and wait for this to disappear, or stay, or whatever
In my opinion, there is no doubt. I choose the first. I choose it because this is the way a manager is going to succeed. You cannot just accept things because you feel weak or lazy at some point, if you do that – you miss good things, if you choose it as a routine, then you lost it all. Fight to get things done the way you view it.
* Face reality – describe the problem for yourself (pen and paper please)
* Focus on specific spots which cause the most of the mess
* Consult with relevant managers – always have another set of eyes, and someone who is willing to give a good advice
* Write a plan how to change route, fix cracks, etc. If you need to research it – then do it. It is much better to copy others’ successful ways of coping.
* Always have plan B and C. I usually find that three plans is a good number of alternatives.
* Do it, never give up. It will happen eventually.
Quite corny, but always ends as pure true. Doing good to others is doing good to yourself.
Got to confess, I did not hold this opinion for all of my life. I sometimes fall into the evil trap, I sometimes do not believe there is good; however, when I eventually go through challenges, I am a better person, and so you are.
You are a better person, because you did good – you helped someone. So in fact you improved a bad situation. Most of the good people do not even know they incredibly helped someone, watch St. Vincent and judge for yourself…
I am sure he did not plan to be that positively influential, but so you are when you are doing without planning. You never know how much and why you influence someone’s life.
So next time you are somewhere, try to do good to others intentionally, be aware of your unlimited opportunities to sprinkle good and positive around you. Help someone on the road (even when giving them the option to change a lane safely), on the supermarket (you may entertain a kid when his parent is trying to pack, push, put, pay, etc.), you may even consider raise your hand and ask why if you think your company will do harm to the environment.
Just do good, it pays. It pays because it makes you a better person; and when you do good intentionally, you will do it also unintentionally (-:
Can we predict the future?! Future thinking is essential for every community, especially a dynamic and changing community such as the Jewish community in the GTA.
In this article, I would like to shortly describe the potential reality of Toronto’s Jewish community within 10-30 years from today. I based my analysis on the UN data, Statistics Canada data, UJA data and publications, and futurism methodology for the probable future. This article is focused on critical meta-trends which may affect the Jewish community in the GTA as a group. However, please bear in mind, the probable future methodology has up to 70% reliability, so consider actions and plans carefully.
I summarize the article by pointing out the most relevant and urgent needs and suggest routes to address them.
Demography and fertility
There is a wide agreement that the world population is in significant decrease. This trend may continue and affect the balance between young (up to 5 years old) and old (65 years and up). Consequently, humanity will be older, and the shrinking number of young people will need to carry the economy and pay health costs for the increasing number of elderly. Canada and Ontario are not going to experience it differently, and the demographic shift will occur between 2030 and 2050. In addition, even when skilled immigration is taken into account, which artificially increases the labour force, the shift will eventually occur, if delayed a bit. Demographic research done for the Jewish community in GTA about a decade ago shows the demographic shift is close and probably will happen in advance of mainstream Canadian society, i.e. 5-15 years from today, and will increase gradually.
Canadian immigration policy is rapidly changing, but it is safe to assume that Canada will continue to accept immigrants steadily, at a 20% ratio, more or less. The majority of immigrants choose to live in GTA; so, too, the Jewish immigrants. An independent census done by UJA in 2001 has shown that 19% of the Jewish population are immigrants. Forecasts from 2009 mistakenly predicted an increase in the immigrant numbers in the community due to improper use of extrapolative methods. The facts show that immigrant numbers are steady and even decreased a bit. However, when additional variables enter into the equation – the forecast requires re-thinking. Firstly, the fertility rate among Israeli woman is 2.9 children, yet among Jewish-Canadian – 1.8. Therefore, the next Israeli generation will be larger and more significant than today. Secondly, from 2025-2040 Israeli immigrants will reach their top consumptive and productive age (40-60 years old). Hence, their economic value within the community will be gradually increasing. Thirdly, intermarriage among Israelis is close to zero, whereas among Jewish-Canadians the intermarriage rate is about 20%. As a result, the Israeli section within the community will preserve Jewish identity almost completely within that time.
Labour and income A province of Ontario publication from 2011 shows beyond a doubt that immigrant income is very low, and in fact there is always an income gap between immigrant and Canadian born individuals. Additional governmental data show that immigrants cost billions of dollars to the Canadian economy even when their tax payments are taken into account. The Jewish-Israeli immigrant’s situation is pretty similar: two-thirds of households earn less than average income; and only 20% have more than $70k yearly income. Therefore, a major part of the Jewish immigrant is in need for economic assistance. The Jewish immigrant families are larger (as shown above), and we may therefore infer that about two-thirds of the Jewish immigrants are close or slightly above the poverty line. A vital additional variable in this equation is philanthropy. In short, the golden era of philanthropy is over, there is more debt and the inequality of distribution of wealth is growing. Therefore we might assume that fundraising will be increasingly difficult with time.
Social generations and community giving
The World Globalization Index is an important tool for comparison between countries, and it is calculated by an aggregation of social, political, technological, economic and other indicators. Canada is ranked lower with time; whereas in 2006 Canada was ranked in 6th place, in 2013 it was ranked 12th (which is still high, but reflects a steady decrease). When taking the index into account with the above trends, it seems that Canada is stable and highly ranked, however it faces socio-economic challenges which will confront the country with emergency needs to address, such as keeping unemployment rate, population growth, and immigration under control, maintaining the benefit for Canada in both the long and short term alike. In addition, we have to bear in mind the social generation issue. In short, the Baby Boomers (born 1946-64) are holding key positions nowadays, however their influence is about to gradually decrease, and the Millennials (born 1980-2000) will be in charge. The Millennials do not hold the same set of values of Boomers, and their feeling is that the system is in collapse, and that there is an urgent need to fix everything. This generation will take leadership in a very short time, within this foresight timeframe. Therefore, we may assume that Millennials will act in a way of strengthening family and communal values, and less in preserving systems which lost community trust.
Food for thought
This foresight for the Jewish community in the GTA for the next twenty years is complex and complicated. The Jewish community is a small group compared to the general GTA population, as well as to Ontario and Canada as a whole. Yet, this analysis is essential and vital for the future of the community, and we may infer some practical steps and take some action:
There is a need for collective community thinking regarding the demographic shift, with more focus on the increasing number of elderly as opposed to the decreasing number of children. We may assume that the country will not be ready to face this challenge on time, and assist the Jewish community. Moreover, the burden will grow with time.
For the next 20-30 years, the Israeli population in Canada will stay more or less the same size as today, however their purchasing power as well as income will increase. In addition, the Jewish immigrants will hold a key role in preserving Jewish identity as a whole.
There is a need to understand that the economic starting point for Jewish immigrants is much lower than Jewish-Canadian born individuals. Therefore, there is a need to assist them by all means, in order to enable them to establish in Canada, and assist communal needs within one generation ahead.
There is a need to take into account that fundraising is going to be complicated, and it will be difficult to increase the amount of donations. There is a need to rethink and innovate about fundraising (higher payment for services instead of donations by those who are established, using volunteers for communal bodies, etc.).
The Millennials will hold the next leadership positions within this foresight time frame, and will deal with strengthening the community’s values and systems. Therefore there is a need to revise and revisit the traditional way of thinking of how to recruit and engage the community around these values, so it will be supported among as many as possible
In summary, the Jewish community of Toronto needs to revisit and revise its investments as well as its manner of outreach and engagement, in order to enable Millennials to take true leadership positions and integrate the Israelis into the community. The key components to influence our community’s future are in our hands; however the desired change will probably not occur without real actions taken. Hence, involving more groups in planning and implementing alike is essential.
* The article was published in “Shalom Toronto” newspaper in Hebrew as well as in English on March 2015.
Future. A single word with crucial meaning. Futures is even more compelling, because its name reveals a secret… a tiny true… there are several futures; not just one, nothing is determined yet. You may plan the future, and if you do it wisely, you can positively change the future, and this is what we all want.
Let’s start with a short introduction, futures thinking is a systematic way to deal with wicked questions, face challenges, and also provide with a set of possible solutions, or suggested routes to take. The method is fascinating and out of ordinary, because it requires to adapt and adjust different practices of dealing with problems. Futures thinking is focusing on four types of futures: possible, probable, preferable, and “wildcards”. I tend to like two types and pursuing my analyses based on them – probable (70% probability that your foresight is correct – you may plan 15 years in advance, i.e. foresee 2030 today), and preferable (the one you create with your team). Whereas the first one does not require you to work in teams, the last will not work without involving a large scale of experts. As a consequence the foresight you do alone is the possible, but still shed light on the unknown; and give you a taste of what preferable futures thinking may result.
The process holds four elements: question, gathering of data, analysis, and interpretation (which leads to another question and so on). At a first glance it seems like any other problem solving process. However, the difference lies in the methodology, and the results are surprising.
In addition, you may want to choose a method to gather and interpret your data. I found the General System Theory as a very useful framework, especially for social issues (so take a look at the link, and learn the materials before you jump to the analysis).
In order to make your life easier I have collected several global trends, that you may use as the basic assumptions for every analysis:
According to Strauss and Howe’s generations theory, we are getting into the forth turning, when millennials are the societal focus;
The millennials are more connected to friends, less connected to institutions;
The millennials are worried of their uncertain future, unlike the boomers;
The millennials are highly educated, and hold various credentials, however their chances to get decent employment opportunities are lower;
Demography: the world population is getting older. Shrinking young population and more elderly. As a result, less young people are going to bear the burden for many elderly.
More migration, more urbanization.
Technology will continue to be developed, and influence life. Changes will occur often and rapidly.
When you done setting your basic global trends, you may start the second layer of assumptions – the local and industry specific ones. In order to retrieve these data, you can find the following sources useful: governmental sources, UN, local foundations, local universities, and any other information bodies, that may publish relevant data. Gather the data, and articulate the assumptions.
The third step is to look at the data, try to find connections to your questions, and interpret it WITH CAUTION.
I hope you find this content useful – feel free to contact me for commenting or any other request. If you would like to start a future thinking process in your business or organization – I will be happy to consult you with that.
Warning! this content is a very short introduction for futures thinking, and I suggest to use it as a tool for strategic thinking and planning. I do not suggest you to use it as a formal foresight, because you need an expert to help you in this process.
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.
Couple of years ago I have encountered, quite incidentally with prof. David Passig‘s work. David deals with futures thinking, and how it may benefit businesses and communities. His books re the future of Israel, and futurism in general caught my eyes, and spoke to me in a language I am very familiar with – methodology, the systematic way in which things work.
Before I start flooding your screen with information and thoughts, please feel yourself at home, grab a coffee and watch The Day After Tomorrow. You will see the trailer below, but you must watch in order to FEEL it. Craziness of unexpected things, or maybe unrealistic? forgotten? unattractive? unplanned?! Watch and keep reading afterwards.
I watched this movie in a cinema. I was young, freshly graduated from university and worked in market research as a research assistant while pursuing my master degree is Sociology. I liked it, I liked it because it was so fictive, so crazy, so impossible, but still mother nature in all its glory. Wow!
Yet, I must admit – there was something else pretty amazing in this movie – its message. Besides the regular drama of father and son, there was a strong claim re earth, global warming, mutual responsibility, and above all – the extreme power of planning and facing reality.
Yes, unfortunately we have to. I say unfortunately because most of us like the idea of doing we we are doing, without the need to expect the future or plan, it is pretty normal and obvious, I believe. But, hey! I am here to awake you my friends – we have to plan, we have to face the future ready enough, we have to put ourselves together. How? there are many ways to do it, the first one is to KNOW what your organization do, the second in this line is to IMPROVE what you are doing, and last but not least is to PLAN the future. Face it, take action before it starts happening and you find yourself in a middle of a huge storm, and all you can do is to press the “safe mode” button. It is much harder to fix, and much easy to plan and be safe in advance.
I will elaborate more on futurism and particularly futures thinking in business and organizations in my coming posts, so you can be familiar with the methodology, which is, in my opinion, very impressive and pretty out of ordinary.
Stay tuned as I soon plan to publish a strategic future forecast, I made for the Jewish community in Toronto, Canada.