by Melissa Wall
In my graduate work in Philanthropic Studies and Nonprofit Management at IUPUI, we often discuss demands by today’s funders and donors for nonprofit accountability, transparency, performance, and return on investment. Most often, our discussions center on how and why nonprofits are failing or struggling to respond.
Why are these seemingly reasonable requests so difficult to fulfill?
The research, evaluation, and data needed to satisfy funders about these issues can easily overwhelm an underfunded nonprofit. Human capital might also limit a nonprofit’s ability to respond: No matter how transparent a nonprofit wants to appear, being understaffed or lacking employees knowledgeable about collecting and analyzing needed data can be an insurmountable roadblock.
Fortunately, more and more resources are available to help nonprofits address the growing demands of their stakeholders. I’ve listed a few below.
As you access these sites, though, just remember: A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
“Objectivity means being aware and honest about how one’s own beliefs, values, and biases affect the research process.” – Patti Lather
Not all research is sound, and even when it is, not all decisions based on research are sound. Your own – and your organization’s – unconscious biases can easily color the way you word survey questions, lead focus groups and analyze data. RAND Corporation, known for high-quality, objective research and analysis on issues at the top of the national and international policy agendas, shares its Standards for High-Quality Research and Analysis, and its Hallmarks of Outstanding Research and Analysis.
I encourage you to think of ways you can bring data into your organization’s decision-making process, then spend some time with these sites learning what’s available and how to identify good research.
- Blackbaud – Industry research and short briefings on issues regarding nonprofit management.
- Corporation for National and Community Service – National and state data on volunteering.
- Independent Sector – Employment, volunteering, and revenue stats (may help with grant proposals and advocacy).
- National Center for Charitable Statistics – Financial data, giving trends, more, with state/county breakdowns.
- Stanford Social Innovation Review – Studies on philanthropy, social entrepreneurship, and nonprofit resources.
- Urban Institute – Outcome Indicators Project and PerformWell.
What other sources has your nonprofit found helpful?