For many years, the sign hanging on the wall in Albert Einstein’s Princeton office read, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
This is quite true in philanthropy, especially when it comes to the fundraising and administrative costs which are often analyzed in terms of a percent or ratio of operating expenses. Who is to say the current formulas used by rating agencies to hallmark the qualities of an efficient and well-run organization are the “cat’s meow?”
It’s the best we have, but can they be improved, can the formulas be more representative, transparent and holistic? How could donor insight and response from the community served add to a convergence of both quantitative and qualitative measurement of philanthropic impact and organization efficiency?
I don’t have the answers to these questions, and that is why I raise the questions. They have been on my mind ever since meeting Dan Pallotta, author of “Uncharitable” at the 2009 national Partnership for Philanthropic Planning Conference. I do suggest we need an ongoing dialogue on the subject and encourage you to read three recent posts relevant to the subject, available at the links below:
- “Ten Years On: Are Donors Different? Were They Ever? “ by Timothy Ogden on the Stanford Social Innovation Review,
- “Fundraising costs are not a measure of a charity’seffectiveness” by Pesh Framjee, and
- “Good charities spend more on admin but it is not moneywasted” by Abby Young-Powell, which are both located on The Guardian's Volunteer Sector Network.
I look forward to your thoughtful responses.