Shared Systems of Measurement Increase Nonprofits’ Impact, Report Finds

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Philanthropy News Digest |

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The emergence of evaluation systems that enable hundreds or thousands of nonprofits to measure their performance on common indicators and shared evaluation platforms is helping to enhance funder and nonprofit effectiveness, a new report from Boston-based FSG Social Impact Advisors finds.


Funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the report, Breakthroughs in Shared Measurement and Social Impact (57 pages, PDF), describes twenty different shared measurement systems already in use and documents their contribution to increasing grantees’ efficiency, knowledge, and impact. The findings are based on interviews FSG conducted with dozens of practitioners and thought leaders in the social sector to identify shared approaches to performance, outcome, or impact measurement across multiple organizations. “The power of using shared approaches to performance, output, and impact measurement can change how we define progress in every part of the nonprofit sector,” said Hewlett Foundation president Paul Brest.


The report includes four in-depth case studies where collaborative learning and measurement systems are used to create systemic and adaptive approaches to solving social problems. Such approaches move beyond the evaluation of individual grants and grantees, while offering ways to increase the effectiveness of the entire system of interrelated organizations that affect complex social issues.


The recession has heightened the importance of cost savings from shared measurement systems. According to Foundations Address the Impact of the Economic Crisis (6 pages, PDF), a recent report from the Foundation Center, two-thirds of foundations expect to engage in collaborations and partnerships in response to the economic downturn.


“If we are to solve large-scale social problems, we must invest in building the capacity, aligning the efforts, and tracking the progress of all organizations working on an issue,” said FSG founder and managing director Mark Kramer. “The innovative systems described in this study carry implications well beyond performance measurement, foreshadowing the possibility of profound changes in the vision and effectiveness of the entire nonprofit sector.”


“New Breakthroughs in Shared Outcome and Impact Measurement Increase Funder and Nonprofit Effectiveness.” FSG Social Impact Advisors Press Release 7/23/09.


 


 

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evaluation, Foundation Center, nonprofits