Culture Wars

<p>In a bad economy, it&rsquo;s more critical than ever to track the impact of philanthropic dollars being given to charitable causes. Trouble is, measuring impact remains a significant challenge for most classic advocacy organizations&mdash;but less so, some philanthropy experts believe, for social enterprises. Why? <a href="http://www.fsg-impact.org/people/item/319">Mark Kramer of FSG Social Impact Advisors</a> says it&rsquo;s all about culture and mindset. FSG is a nonprofit founded in 1999 as a foundation strategy group by Kramer and colleague Michael Porter, the Harvard Business School professor.<br /> <br /> Here are some exerpts from Kramer&rsquo;s <a href="http://w4.stern.nyu.edu/berkley/social.cfm?doc_id=1868">just-released video</a> from the fifth annual NYU Conference of Social Entrepreneurs at NYU&rsquo;s Stern School of Business last month.&nbsp; Kramer shares his concerns as the nonprofit sector careens towards the close of what some predict will go down as the worst holiday giving season in years:<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We all give away money. Wouldn&rsquo;t it be great to know what we actually accomplish? Evaluation is urgent and essential: it&rsquo;s through this that we will overcome what I see as the failure of classical philanthropy. We live in remarkable experiment in the nonprofit sector. No other country has a nonprofit sector as large and vibrant as in the United States. Philanthropic giving over the past 20 years, in inflation-adjusted dollars, has increased 250 percent and the number of nonprofit organizations has more than doubled. Yet when you look at where America ranks on the problems that the nonprofit sector is trying to address, we have steadily declined compared to other developed nations over those last 20 years.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We spend more than any other country in the world on health care but yet in life expectancy, the United States ranks 24th out of 30. Consider education. Out of 100 kids who start high school in America today, 16 will graduate college on time. And that&rsquo;s nationally. There are many communities where nobody will graduate college on time.<br /> Poverty? We are second only to Mexico for the percentage of children living in poverty.&nbsp; And on crime, we have 5% of world&rsquo;s population yet 25 percent of the world&rsquo;s prisons. And all of these things have grown dramatically over the last 20 years as philanthropy has burgeoned&mdash;as the nonprofit sector has burgeoned. So something isn&rsquo;t working and I believe that what fundamentally isn&rsquo;t working is that we don&rsquo;t know the impact of our contributions. And if we don&rsquo;t know the impact of our contributions, we can&rsquo;t make intelligent decisions about where to direct our money. And that, fundamentally, is a failure of the sector.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Achieving greater impact with our dollars is not just about creating new social media tools in philanthropy. We also need to change the culture , from one that is focused on giving&mdash;asking how much did we give and how much did we raise &mdash;-into one that is focused on performance.<br /> <br /> I think social entrepreneurs are a wonderful example of that cultural shift. They are people who are focused on outcomes and performance rather than on the fundraising, alone. We can solve social problems but we need to focus on problem-solving, not just giving money to the nonprofit sector.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> What do you think? Is the culture of impact measurement among social entrepreneurs key to getting more bang for the buck for private philanthropy dollars?<br /> <br /> To see the full video, <a href="http://w4.stern.nyu.edu/events/podcast/video_SEC1.html">click here</a>.</p>
<p>Other resources include <a href="http://www.whatworks.org/">The Center for What Works</a></p>