Tools for Finding Good Organizations and Programs

January 15th, 2013

Outcome-oriented Philanthropy is on the Rise.

In the past decade, numerous nonprofits have taken on the responsibility of making successful charitable investments in strategic goals more attainable. They do this by increasing nonprofit transparency, streamlining research methods and aggregating results.  Each group has its own methodology and philosophy on what matters most.  Thus, there are many new tools that make it easier for donors to highlight the areas they care most about, and the charities that are doing the best work in those areas.

Assessing the public impact of nonprofits.

Perform Well (http://performwell.org). Perform well is a site that provides a detailed introduction to performance management and offers performance indicators, questionnaires, and other tools designed to help social ­service groups collect and analyze real­-time data to help them improve programs and measure their impact. Donors can browse surveys and assessments by outcome area or program strategy, and find, measure, and manage program implementation.

GiveWell  (http://givewell.org/). GiveWell is an independent nonprofit charity evaluator. Rather than solely focusing on financial outcomes, GiveWell evaluates how well programs work - their effects on the people they serve. GiveWell identifies a few best-practice charities that they recommend rather than reviewing as many charities as possible. They value transparency above objectivity when recommending charity success to others.

Root Cause (http://www.rootcause.org). Root Cause brings together in-depth research on nonprofits, philanthropy, government and businesses to foster social innovation and invest in what works and what doesn't. Their goals are to spread social innovation, align information on terminology and social issue data, public innovation to drive systemic change on social issues that are most successful in partnerships, and identify social impact markets in the private sector to provide financial, volunteer or in-kind resources.

Philanthropedia (http://www.myphilanthropedia.org), recently acquired by GuideStar (http://www2.guidestar.org). Philanthropedia aggregates expert opinions to rate verified, and responsible charities according to the great work they are doing. So far they have provided reviews on 423 top nonprofits across 28 different causes. Experts have an average of 8-20+ years of experience in their sector and can provide recommendations on organizations they are familiar with.  

Charity Navigator (http://www.charitynavigator.org). Charity Navigator provides ratings using objective, unbiased numbers-based systems to assess over 5,000 of America's best-known and worthy charities. They examine financial health, accountability and transparency to rate the level of commitment to good governance, best practices and openness. Criticized for relying too much on numbers (percentages of overhead to program costs, for example) Charity Navigator is finally updating its assessments to include a charities' reporting of program results -- so stay tuned.

Charting Impact (http://www.chartingimpact.org). Charting Impact is a project of the Independent Sector, GuideStar and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance. It was developed as a presentation that allows staff, boards, holders, donors, and volunteers to learn and work with one other. It encourages organizations to publish information on their goals, strategies and achievements that can be used by nonprofits and foundations of all sizes and missions to collaborate.

Encouraging greater foundation transparency.

Foundation Center's Glasspockets initiative (http://glasspockets.org/).  Glasspockets is an initiative that is geared toward increasing foundation transparency. Their goals include: to illuminate successes, failures, and ongoing experimentation so foundations can build on each other's ideas to increase impact, and to increase understanding of best practices in transparency and accountability in an online world.

Center for Effective Philanthropy's Grantee Perception Reports (http://www.effectivephilanthropy.org). CEP provides donors and foundations with comparative data for outcomes on issues, fields, communities and people through assessing performance, developing strategy, optimizing governance, funder-grantee relationships, and managing operations overall.

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