Thursday, June 19, 2008
The Philanthropy|UK Newsletter has published this interesting exchange between Martin Brookes, New Philanthropy Capital’s (NPC) Director of Research and Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of the National Council of Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) in the UK regarding whether there should be a governmental board to provide independent assessment of charities' effectiveness. The question of how one measures the performance of charities is a tough nut to crack; one can obviously measure things like program expenditures, the amount of donations actually spent on programs vs. fundraising overhead and so forth. For certain charities, moreover, one could measure the number of beneficiaries served (e.g., for poor-relief charities). But how, exactly, does one measure the "performance" of the Lincoln Center? The Chicago Symphony Orchestra? The Metropolitan Museum of Art? Has the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation "performed" well in its pursuit of international health issues? How should we measure how well Harvard accomplishes its educational mission? On the other hand, its not that folks aren't trying to develop performance measures; "outcomes assessment" has become a mantra of educational accreditation organizations (just ask any educational administrator who has gone through an accreditation cycle in the past decade). But I honestly don't think we're there yet, and the thought of some kind of government-sponsored assessment board gives me the complete willies.