So I've got measuring on my mind. I wrote another guest post at Philanthropy Action about how a focus on measurements of programmatic effectiveness, when pushed from the outside by donors, could actual harm non-profits' efforts. It's in response to Mario Morino's most recent column for Venture Philanthropy Partners (which is fascinating and something everyone should read.)
This post, I think, synthesizes the arguments of my last two and makes a fundamental conclusion to keep in mind when looking at an organization's effectiveness: a lack of measurement does not mean a lack of results. As a donor hoping for accountability, that's hard for me to admit, but as a person who has worked for and with non-profits, I know it's true.
Of course, that doesn't mean every non-profit is doing good. But until social outcome measurements are the universally-accepted standard (and there is money to support the process), social investors shouldn't be discouraged by a lack of data. Instead, they should encourage measurement and evaluation whenever possible.