In small family foundations, the prevalent question is “how can we do best with our investment?”. Similarly to the question about fund investments in stock and other assets. However, the big question of how to impact the most with the funds, may be answered quite decently when taking several aspects into account:
(1) applicant information: what information is collected from applicant, and how much information is usable. In other words, the secret of data collection in the first stage is the lean nature of the collected data. Ensure the information requested is highly relevant for the decision making process.
(2) clear guidelines: when the foundation is getting too many irrelevant applications and letters, this raises the question of clarity and accuracy of guidelines for applications. Hence, ensure the application guidelines are clear, presented and accessible on the website, and state shortly and clearly who are the typical applicants to be considered. Also, provide a clear timeline for application rounds and decision announcements.
(3) decent evaluation: the most important, yet frequently neglected aspect, is evaluation and understanding of the contribution impact. It is easy to donate for a cause close to one’s heart. However, grant making is not only about giving, but also about ensuring the investment is impactful and fruitful. By this, the foundation needs to create simple rubrics or other evaluation tools to allow continuous and clear reporting (quarterly and annually). The evaluation tool should also provide the opportunity to compare between funded projects, to assist in decision making for future donations. Those evaluation tools do not have to be too sophisticated, they can be smart enough to compare and extract information based on the criteria on the guidelines, and most importantly – measure and evaluate the match and achievement of the foundation’s vision.
(4) organized decision making: when all the above are accomplished, the foundation’s management team and board are able to make decisions quite easily and effectively. Whether it is about deciding who are to be included in the next round of applicants (i.e. section 1 and 2 – guidelines and applicant information) or what was the impact of the invested funds over the year, and how the projects are doing in comparison (section 3). The management team arranges all the information for the board, and the board makes efficient, wise, evidence-based decisions to highly impact and use the funds in the most significant way to achieve the foundation’s vision.
Many organizations are doing a great job. They know exactly how to engage their target audience, they know to deliver the service on the best way possible, well.. they also know to fundraise money from the local community.
However, they do often underestimate the tremendous power community relations have in order to help them scale and grow. Community relations is not just having someone to actively address and answer phone calls, and provide with information; it is about being proactive and initiative, let people know who you are and what you do. There are so many good organizations out there, why you and not others?!
Of course, you are special and unique, and you know it with all of your heart; nevertheless, you should let decision makers and community leaders know about you, your organization, and your achievements. I know you have, I know you did a lot. Now make this information accessible to everyone – let them read about you in the newspaper, let them watch you on a Facebook video, let them know good things about your activities. Never forget to crunch numbers, to provide accurate data, to show a real picture of your impact and change of community’s life.
You will be surprised to learn how many out there did not know your organization even exists! You will meet many prospect donors and clients who wish to donate their time or money to help you, and grow the social impact of what you are doing. Make sure to involve politicians, from all levels and parties, let them speak for you, bring your voice higher, assist you to achieve social goals. It is working to a great extent, but the first step is to DO IT.
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.
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.