SOURCE: Social Solutions

December 04, 2007 10:44 ET

Industry Contrarian Says: Don't Be "Charitable" This Year

David Hunter Explains Why Business as Usual Just Isn't Good Enough

BALTIMORE, MD--(Marketwire - December 4, 2007) - As year-end approaches, Americans finalize giving plans for the fiscal year, and company match programs are quickly coming to a close. Americans are financially and culturally encouraged to make charitable donations, with nearly 70 percent of households contributing(1) in a country that offers the most generous tax concessions in the world(2). The desire to do right is there. However, an increasingly vocal group of dissenters cautions the well intentioned: think before you donate this year.

"Well-intentioned, smart, compassionate people are giving every single day, but the process of charitable giving is diminished by sentimentality," said David Hunter, a nationally recognized consultant to nonprofits in the area of strategic performance management. "Few people know the impact of their donations, and sadly, nonprofits are not accountable for their efforts."

Hunter urges Americans to take a well-informed approach and move beyond "feel good" charitable giving to being Social Investors who demand evidence of results. Much like investors trading stock on Wall Street, Social Investors require evidence that their dollars are making a significant difference in people's lives. Otherwise, the money spent on charitable giving is sentimental (for those who simply want to feel good and be sentimental, these comments obviously are not relevant).

"While all nonprofits offer heartwarming anecdotes about the good they do, a very small minority actually measure and track and evaluate the outcomes of their efforts," added Hunter. "So, at risk of playing the Grinch, I urge all Americans to become informed social investors this holiday season, or don't give at all!"

Hunter has provided the following resources about programs that work, in order to help givers become Social Investors:

--  The Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy's Social Programs that Work:
    www.evidencebasedprograms.org
--  The Promising Practices Network:
    www.promisingpractices.net
--  The California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare:
    www.cachildwelfareclearinghouse.org
--  The What Works Clearinghouse, U.S. Department of Education's Institute
    of Education Sciences:
    http://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/
--  The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention's Model
    Programs Guide (MPG), The U.S. Department of Justice:
    http://dsgonline.com/mpg2.5/mpg_index.htm
--  The Child Trends' What Works Guide
    www.childtrends.org
    

"I give to causes I care about, to organizations that cater to people I care about," said Ace Werner, a D.C.-area lawyer whose firm matches employees' charitable contributions. "Obviously I know the usual tips about giving, I'm not concerned that I'm being fleeced. But, I do wonder how useful my gift is. Perhaps I'm idealistic: I hope that the money I give makes a difference. That someone is benefiting from my contributions."

Hunter also notes that the message is simple. Don't give until you are confident the organization is effective. Key criteria are:

--  Understand what it is trying to accomplish, whom is it serving, does
    it have the discipline and focus to achieve its mission, and whether it is
    making meaningful progress toward achieving its stated objectives.
--  Know whether the organization is measuring services in a way that
    allows for continual improvement.
--  Compare organizations and the evidence they have that they are getting
    the results they claim.
--  Consider the social value of the organization.  Art museums and a
    homeless shelters are incredibly important to our society...but do not
    provide the same social value.  Be clear what you value and why...and be
    brave enough to put your money where you believe it is needed most, not
    just where it buys you social cachet.
    

About David Hunter

David E.K. Hunter, Ph.D. is an independent consultant to Social Solutions, helping the company improve the ways nonprofit organizations can implement Efforts to Outcomes (ETO). He also consults the Social (not-for-profit) and Public Sectors with a focus on organizational capacity building, developing strategies and theories of change, performance management, and the creation, delivery, and assessment of social value. Dr. Hunter was formerly the Director of Evaluation and Knowledge Development at the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation in New York City. Dr. Hunter is the author of numerous articles and has delivered a broad range of papers about strategic performance management and how to create, invest in, and sustain social value in complex situations with diverse stakeholders.

For an interview with David, or a list of other industry insiders who are raising concerns about the effectiveness of social services delivery, please contact at Matthew Langan at 202-262-3340, matthew@dbcpr.com.

About Social Solutions and ETO Software®

Social Solutions is a national technology firm, serving the reporting needs of thousands of human services professionals from local nonprofits to national foundations. The company's ETO (Efforts to Outcomes) reporting software replaces one-size-fits-all data tracking with a reporting system tailored to the unique mission of each nonprofit organization. ETO Software® generates a clear and accurate measure of impact to improve service delivery, earn more funding, and reduce the time and resources dedicated to tracking.

(1) according to a 2001 report from the Independent Sector

(2) according to economist Charles Clotfelter as quoted by the Stanford Social Innovation Review

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