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.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Perverse Incentives: Why the Correct Criteria Matter

Another criteria related issue we are discussing with our partners is how certain categories that people like to report often have a great risk of becoming harmful if they become the standard measurement tool.

For example, we are debating – and trying to convince a group that has sought our help and insight – that reporting on things like “students educated” and “children fed” should not become the thing they view as their main measures or what they should try to get donors to examine most closely. In our view both of these categories result in “teaching to the test” behavior. The more one focuses on “students educated” or “children fed” the more one tries to raise these scores because that is how the group measures success and how the donor does, as well. The problem is that NGOs should not operate like businesses and maximize certain scores. After all, the NGOs’ really aims are to reduce these scores, and unlike businesses, encourage their own extinction. The fact that more students are being fed or educated does not really mean an NGO is being more effective or successful. Of course, it does not indicate they are not, but what we are trying to convince this group – and others like it – is that reporting needs to focus on other types to measures, as well.

This where we think outcome measurement is especially important. It encourages a more holistic approach to reporting and learning and sees many criteria in concert so that when one evaluates any one criterion, one sees it in terms of the ultimate outcome that is being sought.