Weekly Reader September 9, 2013

Top reads we’re recommending this week.

When Good Is Not Good Enough: Leaders of two of the most successful nonprofit organizations argue that the sector needs to shift its attention from modest goals that provide short-term relief to bold goals that, while harder to achieve, provide long-term solutions by tackling the root of social problems. (Stanford Social Innovation Review)

What is a Social Impact Bond? The Social Impact Bond, or ‘SIB’, is one of the many types of innovative investing for social benefit. A SIB is both a form of pay-for-success and impact investing. However, unlike most forms of impact investing, the SIB does not involve investing in a for-profit company. Rather, the SIB is a way for the private sector to seek financial gain through the funding of a nonprofit service provider, and is a way for the social sector to shift the risk of funding innovative, often prevention-based programs to the for-profit sector, and away from the government. (Gateway Center for Giving Blog)

Thinking About Nonprofit Evaluation as Affected by Time (Paul T. Hogan, vice president of the John R. Oishei Foundation, writing for the Nonprofit Quarterly)

As a funder making about $18 million worth of grants annually in western New York State, we are tremendously interested and invested in the issue of evaluation and outcome, so when I read Steven Lawry’s “When Too Much Rigor Leads to Rigor Mortis,” it led to my wanting to share some thoughts. As someone who worked for over 18 years on the “seeker” side of the table, and now 10 years on the “maker” side, I know that the claims, expectations, and understandings about evaluation are all over the map, and often misguided.

The critical point at which thinking is split is around expectations. What can one reasonably expect to be learned in short-term evaluation that is useful to guide further development? What exactly is reasonable to try to measure? All of us on both sides of the grant would love to be able to draw a straight line from the check being deposited in the non-profit’s account to a significant improvement in a burgeoning social issue 12 months later. But one response to the axiom that you can’t manage what you can’t measure is a paraphrase of Einstein’s observation: “Not everything that can be measured is important, and not everything that is important can be measured.”