Metrics and Reporting Gone Wild
The Chronicle of Philanthropy posted a great example of the hidden costs of the “accountability” and metrics focus of contemporary philanthropy. The federal social innovation fund has copied the approach of too many foundations and grant-makers to focus too intensively on measuring and matching requirements. This can effectively cut the link between mission and money. It also is a great example of the inconsistencies in current philanthropy.
80 pages of instructions on metrics and evaluation? How can a single grant-maker possibly know enough to design a one-size-fits-all? This isn’t just a problem of government; it is a trend that pervades the philanthropic world that needs to be re-examined. A need to hire staff and consultants to design a measurement system? Time cards for hourly tracking; and separate requirements by each funder (feds and match)? This is a system gone awry.
Ironic that some grant-makers will not fund overhead, yet they are very willing to impose overhead costs. Though the article doesn’t say so, I wonder if the “unanticipated” compliance costs made the grant smaller than the cost of the program: a grant that cost a nonprofit money. Hardly what I would call philanthropy.
See the chapter “Blurring the Lines Between Donor and Manager” in my book More Than Just Money to see other thoughts on re-thinking the role of grant-maker and nonprofit executive in making sure we stay focused on community need and nonprofit mission.