Welcome to the Charitable Measurement Initiative!

The Charitable Measurement Initiative is a collaboration of people and organizations that are deeply committed to the belief that social change organizations can mobilize significant new and better investment if they are able to implement a measurement reporting framework that credibly communicates their real impact to donors. The Initiative is directed by GiveIndia and calls on the resources of pilot program partners Keystone Accountability, Global Giving, and New Philanthropy Capital, as well as many other organizations committed to social welfare.

The process began when we decided to combine our previous experiences in humanitarian and charitable work with our current work as corporate lawyers. We sought to find a group in India that was looking to incorporate capital markets/securities concepts in reporting and analysis to create more valuable and transparent information.

Thankfully, we were put in touch with GiveIndia. Give discussed the idea of running a pilot program implementing the Keystone framework developed by Keystone Accountability to see if we could help organizations more clearly articulate the outcomes they wanted and better communicate their actual results to donors. This was exactly what we were hoping to do and gladly agreed to donate a year of time to making this work.

While we were in London, Give put us in touch with Keystone Accountability and New Philanthropy Capital. After many meetings throughout the spring and summer, we arrived at our joint creation – the Charitable Measurement Initiative – and a plan as to how we would seek to help NGOs in India become more transparent, responsive, and efficient, as well as help donors become more engaged and involved.

Friday, October 19, 2007

First Steps: Selecting and Soliciting NGOs

Once in Mumbai we started be selecting specific children’s related charities that we hoped to work with. We carefully chose this set from those that were already listed on Give’s site because: (1) we could be assured that they had already met and were continuing to meet Give’s demanding criteria; and (2) they would be open to working with us. It was even more important because given the one-year time frame, and the six-month period in which we hoped to have a pilot group ready to take to donors. With such a tight time frame for the pilot group, we really benefited from Give already having many of the documents we needed to review for our diligence and could build on Give’s relationship to ensure an easier time completing any additional diligence.

Once we identified potential pilot partner NGOs, we drafted an explanatory email and a document explaining the goals of the reporting and learning framework to go with the prospectus. With this package of documents, we began to solicit partners for the Initiative. (Attached is the sample template we used to solicit NGOs through email and the document summarizing the goals of the framework.)

We were surprised by the overwhelming interest as a great number – to date (a week after sending the initial emails) approximately 60% of NGOs expressed great interest in the Initiative (and even one that heard about it through another NGO). What is even more exciting is that we demanded that the boards of the NGOs that wished to participate discuss the Initiative, approve participation, and be willing to participate. All of the participant NGOs had done so and many were ready for their entire boards to participate in the workshops.

Another pleasant surprise was that the NGOs really seemed to understand that the real carrot in this process was not the money they could hopefully see, but the more dynamic and engaged relationship that they could have with their beneficiaries and donors. Whether this is true or just some clever chicanery, we’ll have to see. But it would surprise me if it wasn't true.

On the other hand there does seem to be a lot of attention to “revenue generation” and concern with financial accountability. One of the interesting things about NGOs operating in India is that they – like everything else in India – are greatly influenced by India’s new found prosperity. Many of the leaders of these NGOs have or had significant experience in the corporate sector in areas like banking, finance, accounting, and consulting. As a result they are very well versed in the corporate dialogue and are tuned into the movement to implement market ideas into the charitable world. In addition to financial accountability there is also a lot of discussion about “adding value”. (I’m still not sure whether all of this market discussion is entirely well-suited for the NGOs. There seems to be some conflict with “adding value” and doing charitable work. Especially with young organizations, the “value adding” constraints may inhibit innovative work. Also for all the discussion on accountability, I’m not sure how much extends beyond financial accountability into accountability in terms of effectively reaching outcomes or effectiveness as seen through other stakeholders’ and beneficiaries’ eyes.)

Nevertheless, I think it is probably this experience that explains why so many understand transparency and why they should be accountable and responsible to their beneficiaries. (Of course, our pilot group is comprised of Give listed organizations – and therefore – already have to be transparent with information. But there seems to be a deeper understanding of why that could be helpful.)

There also seems to be an increasing recognition that accountability means more than financial accountability. What we are not sure of yet is how deep this understanding is. Groups like Give and CRY recognize the need for accountability to be more than financial and for it to capture effectiveness, and CRY is leading an initiative to try to educate and train auditors as to how to evaluate NGOs and how that is unique from corporate auditing. I know that CRY and Give had previously discussed other plans to make such a program national, but I don’t believe that it has taken off yet. Hopefully, we can contribute to that movement through our work with the CMI.

Starting the CMI

The Charitable Measurement Initiative is a collaboration of people and organizations that are deeply committed to the belief that social change organizations can mobilize significant new and better investment if they are able to implement a measurement reporting framework that credibly communicates their real impact to donors. The Initiative is directed by GiveIndia (www.giveindia.org) and calls on the resources of pilot program partners Keystone Accountability, (www.keystoneaccountability.org), Global Giving (www.globalgiving.com), and New Philanthropy Capital (www.philanthropycapital.org), as well as many other organizations committed to social welfare.

Both Alex and I started on this process when we decided that we wanted to combine our previous experiences in humanitarian and charitable work with our current work as corporate lawyers. We were hoping to find a group in India that was looking to incorporate capital market/securities like concepts in reporting and analysis to create more valuable and transparent information.

Thankfully, we were put in touch with GiveIndia, they discussed the idea of running a pilot program implementing the Keystone framework developed by Keystone Accountability to see if we could help organizations more clearly articulate the outcomes they wanted and better communicate their actual results to donors. This was exactly what we were hoping to do and gladly agreed to donate a year of time to making this work.

While we were in London, Give put us in touch with Keystone Accountability and New Philanthropy Capital. After many meetings throughout the spring and summer, we arrived at our joint creation – the Charitable Measurement Initiative – and a plan as to how we would seek to help NGOs in India become more transparent, responsive, and efficient, as well as helping donors become more engaged and involved. Our initial prospectus, summarizing our thoughts, the reasons for the NGOs we selected, guesses at a time frame, and general plans is attached.

Dedication

Although we have decided to not use the names of specific people other than ourselves in this blog, we wanted to thank the many individuals at Give, Keystone, NPC, and CRY who have given us advice, support, and the opportunity to work with them on this exciting project. Clich├ęs aside, we are deeply humbled by their commitment and are honored to learn from them.