What I Was Reading — October 2013

January 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

Though I’m publishing this in January of 2014, I was indeed reading in October of 2013, and had intended to publish this back then. Let’s just say I have some catching up to do. I resolve to do better in the coming months.

In October, NPR reported that Charity Navigator will be changing its ratings formula. Already controversial with some nonprofits organizations, this change which will focus more on outcomes is causing even more leaders of charitable organizations to question the specific relevance of Charity Navigator’s metrics. Its one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t actually fit all organizations, especially when it comes to overhead costs.

Going directly against this grain, the Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) published an opinion piece calling for the scrutiny of overhead costs of nonprofits to stop when it comes to measuring an organization’s effectiveness. 

“Under the assumption that minimal administrative and fundraising costs mean a more effective nonprofit, donors frequently seek out organizations that spend the bulk of their funding on program expenses and only a small amount on overhead. But here’s the issue: We can’t separate a program from the people who develop and deliver it. To ensure that a program can achieve maximum impact, we must actively invest in the staff who are supporting the program and make sure we have the best people on the job.”

Amen to that, I say.

Helen Brown posted some useful fundraising analytics resources and guidelines for visualizing data. More of us in prospect development will benefit from learning to tell a story with our data.

The Nonprofit times published a piece raising concerns about collecting data and donor privacy. Really, this topic was old ten years ago. It’s a sensitive topic for me, and I’m tired of my profession, my respected colleagues, and my own professional practices being accused as having some kind of nefarious intent. We are not the NSA. We work with our organizations’ proprietary information stores, augmenting that with information that is publically available about our prospects. Not to mention the fact that we operate with the highest ethical standards outlined in the statements of ethics from the Association of Fundraising Professionals and the Association of Professional Researchers for Advancement. Prospect researchers are easy targets right now because privacy and information is such a hot-button issue in public discourse. Questioning the ethics of our profession is either ignorant or opportunistic, and I expect more from an industry journal.

Though this article goes back to July, I was reading it in October. The Chronicle of Higher Education published This heartening piece: The Ideal English Major. While being specifically about the English major, I read it as pertaining to a liberal arts education in general. The value of liberal arts is on the ropes during this economic downturn, and it’s about time folks in academia and those who have benefitted from a liberal education come forward in popular discourse to defend its value. This article offers some encouraging words and inspiration.

Happy reading!

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