I had been sitting in a getting together with of young professionals previous week and the topic of not-for-profits, grant funding, grant writing, and fundraising arose. In addition, the continued subject matter appealing to me (ethics, governance, and accountability) was also mentioned. But, We found the thoughts of the group of young professionals to be interesting, well-timed, and very innovative: those nonprofit organizations that are ‘irrelevant’ or ‘duplicative’ are no longer needed in our communities, are drawing funds away from other, arguably more feasible, needs and really should not be expected to survive. nonprofit job board
As the discussion progressed, it was clear that the young professionals truly have followed ‘social media’ (LinkedIn, Fb, Twitter, etc. ) as their means for socializing. They don’t attend the conferences – nor do they join the community organizations – that have been the mainstays of days gone by. This trend places more and more non-profit organizations in jeopardy. Where are tomorrow’s leaders? How can the mechanism of ‘social marketing’ find its way into the governance process required of nonprofits? Countless articles have been written about the scarce resources that still spiral downward for organizations in the charitable (charitable) sector.
And, attentively, this group of young professionals believes ‘survival of the fittest’ is very appropriate, particularly in this monetary climate.
When you stop and contemplate it, the young professionals are accurate – even by the standards of the ‘old timers’ (like this author). We have watched charitable organizations proliferate, compete, bother and fight, refuse to collaborate, and offer ‘services’ that are no longer beneficial by the community. Strangely enough, communities have not proactively rid themselves of less relevant and duplicative nonprofits. Evidently this is because your most irrelevant and duplicative nonprofit organizations still have some modicum of interested supporters (and funders).
Therefore, what really does the Center for Ethics, Governance, and Accountability (CEGA) recommend?
Well, for starters, our entire focus at CEGA has long been on ethics, governance, and accountability – and so it shall continue to be. If a community or a funder or a nonprofit organization would have been to give attention to the ‘accountability’ element of the equation, would not that identify issues of ‘irrelevance’ and ‘duplication’ among the nonprofit sector?
Sure it would!
Nonprofits are infamously skeptical of measuring results – not outputs – but outcomes. Why? Straight forward answer: outcomes speak straight to the viability and the success of the nonprofit as measured against its mission. CEGA recommends a proactive approach to accountability and argue that those nonprofits that can display excellence in accountability (and ethics and governance) should stand above their colleagues in the increasingly difficult fundraising arena.
Precisely what is the difference between ‘outcomes’ and ‘outputs’ as tools of accountability?
Applying an example of a nonprofit jobs training firm, ‘outputs’ would typically evaluate the number of members in this software, along with program costs, etc.; however, to make the move toward ‘outcomes’ the firm would have to track the amount of program participants (outputs) that actually (a) effectively completed the training, (b) found jobs that pay a full time income wage, and (c) stayed employed over a given time frame. Now, gowns accountability!
Let’s look into the two clear ends of the spectrum of organizations in the nonprofit sector.
The ‘government’ (federal, condition, and local), by the process it uses to distribute funds, is an enabler of ‘output-based’ actions. An example is the long-standing notion of the “community action agency” and it is myriad of funding systems that ‘automatically’ flow to groups every year. Various of the community action agency funds are in reality codified in federal government and state law. Competitors of community action firms would argue the very point of ‘irrelevance’ and ‘duplication’ arrived long before. Make no mistake that accountability is enforced by means of audits of community action agency programs, however the audit can only be as nice as the required measures.