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, February 1, 2008

Intermediaries’ Complaints about NGOs

Having had discussions with intermediary people and organizations (that is, groups like CMI) who have overseen many donor-NGO projects in India first-hand in the last 1o years, it is clear that their overall impression is that many Indian NGOs do not respect the freedom that comes with unrestricted money. The most common complaint is that many NGOs are not proactive in engaging donors and do not communicate to donors the challenges that the organization will or could face. They also complain that there is little to no meaningful stakeholder dialogue on an ongoing basis. As a result of these failures, the intermediaries say that they have often seen that even when NGOs receive money they do not take reporting seriously unless future disbursements are linked to reports. Without some sort of punishment, they fear that NGOS just won’t report honestly and complete and will not develop an honest relationship with their donors.

Based on this fear we are rethinking what it exactly means to get unrestricted funds. If we take these fears seriously, then purely unrestricted funds are unlikely to work or encourage the type of interactions and dynamics that we would like to see.

Our current thinking is that there will have to be strict timelines and reporting obligations, all of which are clearly outlined in a MOU signed by the NGO and donor and use an intermediary (like Give) to facilitate some of the exchanges.

The key will be doing so while giving the flexibility to use funds as may be needed. Clear project guidelines with clear timelines are easier to monitor but they handcuff the NGO and we believe are not the best for meaningful, sustainable development. While we would ideally encourage active donor-NGO engagement so that the donor takes up some of the monitoring and the NGO is responsible for frequent reporting, it is impractical because the donor is unlikely to have the time. Therefore, it is likely that initially the funding will have to be loosely restricted and as trust builds, the funding will become more unrestricted.