Beth Kanter has a great post
, The Columbus Foundation's great use of social media to inspire giving. Beth also asks the key question, (and I paraphrase) "Ask not what your community can do for you, ask what you can do for community."
She notes several examples of individuals digging deeper to give more this giving season
. I'm all for it. I hope it happens. I'm doing my best, are you?
But what I want to happen and what I hear is happening are two different things. Since this post
and this coverage in the NY Times
I've been veritably deluged with emails, tweets
, phone calls and hallway conversations with folks who say "my giving is down."
Yesterday, in an all day meeting with three dozen public foundation representatives, the universal sense was that giving was going down from at least one key source of support - individual donors. Layoffs at the Komen Foundation
and two other smaller organizations as a result of smaller budgets were the sotto voce
topic in the hallways between sessions.
I was hoping to find some real-time data on nonprofit employment statistics
to get a closer sense of this. I'm guessing that most nonprofit jobs are classified by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
within "service providing," possibly within the subcategory "education and health services." The bigger category dropped only a 108 jobs from September to October and the narrower category actually added 21 jobs - see preliminary data below from BLS. (p = preliminary data)
| | | | | |
Nonfarm employment.......| 137,699|p137,371| 137,423|p137,139|p136,899| p-240
Goods-producing (1)....| 21,565| p21,363| 21,367| p21,284| p21,152| p-132
Construction ........| 7,242| p7,148| 7,153| p7,118| p7,069| p-49
Manufacturing .......| 13,563| p13,428| 13,426| p13,370| p13,280| p-90
Service-providing (1)..| 116,134|p116,008| 116,056|p115,855|p115,747| p-108
Retail trade (2)...| 15,337| p15,269| 15,275| p15,230| p15,192| p-38
Professional and | | | | | |
business services .| 17,980| p17,858| 17,854| p17,815| p17,770| p-45
Education and health | | | | | |
services ..........| 18,823| p18,971| 18,997| p18,981| p19,002| p21
Leisure and | | | | | |
hospitality .......| 13,683| p13,637| 13,639| p13,618| p13,602| p-16
Government ..........| 22,439| p22,496| 22,514| p22,473| p22,496| p23
I'm using common sense here, which may be wrong. Please let me know if 1) my analysis above is flawed and 2) if there is a better, readily available source of employment data in the nonprofit/philanthropic space - and we can add employment in the sector to the growing list of key indicators we need to track
. Even if my approach above is accurate, it won't give us a lens on social enterprise, public agency, or CSR jobs.
But what I really want to point out is a fine distinction that we need to consider when we look at philanthropic giving. Is the money coming from "already committed" philanthropic sources or is it "charitable choice giving?" I'd qualify "already committed" philanthropy as the following - gifts from foundations, even at increased payout rates, gifts from donor advised funds, gifts from trusts, etc. The trade-off being made on these dollars is growth for the future or giving now. That's a tough trade-off for sure, and its why you see some foundations projecting lower grant budgets for 2009 and others saying they'll be growing or spending more. We may even see a bump in giving from donor advised funds - donors may well look around and say "today's needs matter more than growing this pool." That is wonderful - but remember the tradeoff doesn't hurt the donor, he or she has already given that money.
The other category, "charitable choice giving" contains money that is either going to go to charity or its going to pay for food, heat, gas, rent, savings, entertainment, or other daily expenses. The trade off here is keenly felt
by the actual donor - to give the money, he or she may have to give up something else. Now, we don't have data on this distinction (or do we?) and will no doubt need to rely on surveys and interviews and anecdotes. Beth's post, and this survey from PayPal
, are encouraging -- lots of folks are definitely "choosing charity." And this is a choice we each make and can encourage others to as well.
But, it isn't what I'm hearing in the hallways.
"...I agree when you wrote that there isn't shortage of metrics, but there is a lack of comprehensive ones; it seems as though many non-profits are not seeing the value in long-term measurement of effectiveness. How do you suggest a standard of consistency is made in metrics among non-profits? Your list is up to 31 players now, how does a regular donor weigh importance of the information they are provided (good v. bad non-profit based on the evaluator’s definition of effectiveness) among all these groups without spending hours searching on each page?"
"...This is a helpful chronicle of what is out there. It is still pretty messy and will be until someone--or a group of institutions and individuals--hit on a sit of metrics that helps inform real decision making, whether that it is allocation of capital within an organization or funding across organizations. ...I personally don't lament the duplication, redundancy, divergence, etc as I think that is the sign of a healthy and creative time during which new ideas will hopefully improve on their predecessors."
"... I agree with your point about duplication, in fact I'd go beyond not lamenting it to modify it as follows - in any industry, in any product, in any field the "... duplication, redundancy, divergence, etc..." is [a] sign of a healthy and creative time during which new ideas will hopefully improve on their predecessors."
There is, however, the difference between serving the needs of individual organizations that make funding decisions and serving the needs of donors and others trying to make funding decisions. In philanthropy - where sharing ideas about what works is crucial to 1) influencing where dollars go and 2) addressing any of the social concerns we care about on a scale that can be meaningful, the investments in measures/data/indices etc are almost the "backbone" of a more informed and effective capital system.
What I think is possible here is something between independent "creativity and exploration" and "top down" directives - but that will allow for multiple meaningful measures to be developed AND for the world of potential users of those metrics to see that menu as it develops, choose from among its many items, and in fact, inform the development and application of new measures/metrics/data systems/indices. Getting the "crowd" involved is critical - as informants, decision makers, users. And right now, the only systems we have that reach any kind of crowd are Guidestar and Charity Navigator, both of which have proven there are millions of people who want better information and will use it, and neither of which have yet been able to offer the first slice of such information. So we have better information, being developed and tested in small batches (effectively in secret from the market of potential users) and delivery systems that do reach the broader market but are not yet delivering the best possible thinking on the subject of measuring social impact. What an incredible opportunity for the field!"