Weekly Reader June 24, 2013

Top reads we’re recommending this week.

Measuring What Matters Most (Philanthropy Journal)

It’s a familiar and important refrain and it turns out most of us agree. More than 80 percent of nonprofit leaders recently surveyed believe that demonstrating impact through performance measurement is a top priority.  Yet still, when we get down to evaluating our work, it can feel like a time-sensitive and daunting task that delivers little value.

How, then, do we improve our practice of it? How can we use it to strengthen our programs without overtaxing our organizations?


From the PhilanTopic weekend links post for June 23, 2013, published by the Foundation Center:

To get the most out of “big and open data,” you need to know what the data is being used for and you need to be transparent, writes Abby Young-Powell, content coordinator for the Guardian‘s Voluntary Sector Network. In her post, Young-Powell shares data literacy advice from ten experts, including Mike Thompson, senior consultant at mySociety, who counsels nonprofits “to be clear about what question you’re trying to answer before you set up your data collection and analysis activities,” and James Noble, a professional social researcher at New Philanthropy Capital, who advises nonprofits not to “jump to their final outcome…without considering the intermediate steps that are vital to attribution and are often easier to measure.”

Interesting thoughts to consider alongside the GMNsight journal’s latest issue on big data and it’s power, potential, and problems.


The moral case for giving doesn’t rely on questionable quantitative estimates (Blog.GiveWell.org)

In light of Peter Singer’s TED talk and Dylan Matthews’s piece on “earning to give,” there’s been a fair amount of discussion recently of what one might call “Peter Singer’s challenge,” which I’d roughly summarize as follows:

  • By giving $X to the right charity, you can save a human life.
  • This fact has multiple surprising consequences, such as (a) you morally ought to give as much as possible (b) a reasonable path to doing as much good as possible is to pick a maximally high-paying job, to facilitate giving more to charity.