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International adoptions have dropped 60% since 2004. UN policies, government regulations and high costs are to blame. Millions of orphans suffer through life without a healthy family context. All these facts that Both Ends Burning, STUCK, and now Foster Friess are sharing are true. But you won't find my name on the STUCK petition at change.org or my footprints in DC during the May 17 "step forward for orphans march." I've learned too much to believe international adoption is the solution for a world full of orphans.
Do you still enjoy your giving? In a world of professional philanthropy conferences, philanthropy journals and "giving gone wrong" headlines, giving can become one more skill to master or task to manage. My daily research into the performance and impact of grantees has the real potential to strip away the joy of generosity. It can become all head and no heart. Site visits can feel like audits. Grant impact reports can relieve the worry of wasting gifts rather than excite you about the difference the gift has made.
To be honest, you may wonder if it really matters.
Impact measurement has been dubbed the Holy Grail of all social enterprise. If non-profit and for-profit social enterprises could capture the lasting difference made from all the meetings, projects, programs, fundraisers, volunteers, budgets and staff, we would have arrived. We would know if all the donations, charity walks, social media campaigns, grant proposals and collaborative partnerships are worth it. Not surprisingly, no one has found a short cut to universal impact measurement. There is no simple formula that determines whether a charity is ‘high impact,’ I believe there are a few specific steps to take when assessing any non-profit’s impact.
What if the once-a-year "reveals" of a charity's impact had the hype of the iPhone 5? What if millions of people spent time guessing about program upgrades and the higher performance that the most dynamic charity in the world had developed in the past year? What if people were making viral videos and sketching out projections for a charity's outcomes and functions before real pictures and numbers were revealed? I could only wish that charities Excellence in Giving clients support stirred such anticipation to see their latest performance. I would love to receive a mysterious invite (like Apple is about to send to tech media writers) to attend a dramatic presentation of new charitable program designs and their increased productivity. Maybe one day the presentation of a charity's annual report would warrant that hype.
High performing nonprofits develop careful strategies for creating consistent revenue to sustain operations. Donors do not want to support an organization one year and see its programs collapse the next year from insufficient funding. Great organizations with bold visions and effective programs understand that sustainable revenue streams are mission-critical.
Finding out if organizations you support will sustain themselves is step 3 in our 6-step process for evaluating nonprofit performance.