Friday, November 21, 2008

The medium makes the matter matter

Two follow ups from earlier posts this week:

1) Yesterday I wrote this post on the Harvard Business Review article by Bradach, Tierney, and Stone, "Delivering on the Promise of Nonprofits," HBR, December 2008, pp 88 - 97. I've been deluged with emails saying that
  1. the points about overhead are obvious and have been made by many,
  2. people wishing they'd written the story,
  3. people asking how to get copy of it (um, buy the magazine?),
  4. people reinvigorating the debate about nonprofit overhead,
  5. people reinvigorating the argument about rating nonprofits, and so on.
This is great - though I wish these folks would post these as comments so you could join the discussion. (hint, hint :))

Here's my point - the medium (the HBR) matters in delivering this message. Witness previous HBR articles on venture philanthropy and foundation value - this magazine has an impressive role in elevating topics within this sector. So whether or not you agree with the authors, think their point is well known and obvious, or spurious and wrong - MY Point is that the story is in the HBR and the HBR matters.

2) Earlier in the week I posted this:
"The Alliance for Social Investing met on Tuesday. Here are some of my thoughts. 1) industry benchmarking data actually works to change institutional behavior - the Center For Effective Philanthropy and ICMA are proof of that. 2) There are a lot of efforts to measure performance and conduct due diligence in the philanthropic space. Some of them are really good, all of them could be better. Some ways that better might happen - industry leadership, open source experimentation, financial incentives, sharing ideas. Here are some of the measures, measurers, or intermediaries in this area, if anyone is building a list (and, please, someone, build and share the list or geologic table or evolutionary tree): New Philanthropy Capital, GiveWell,* Urban Institute, SocialMarkets, MissionMarkets, Venture Philanthropy Partners, Midot, Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, SocialSolutions, Acumen Fund, Nonprofit Finance Fund, REDF, Center for What Works, and others. Look for an important paper on the philanthropic information markets coming on November 24 from the Hewlett Foundation."
The Alliance is only one effort looking at this - it has no formal home or position, may or may not continue, and recognizes it is part of a broader landscape of efforts, which I tried to note in the post. My list in the post includes many of the others out there, and, of course because list making off the top of my head is dangerous, I forgot some - like Keystone, Great Nonprofits and a whole bunch of others (Many of which I had noted in this July post on how hard it is to even list all these groups - ah the irony!) Not all those listed above were at the meeting, not all those at the meeting were listed - MY Point in the post was that there are a LOT of these efforts and at the very least we need
"... a list (and, please, someone, build and share the list or geologic table or evolutionary tree)".

I was immediately encouraged that we need more than a list - we need to assess the assessors, rate the raters, compare the comparers. I could not agree more - I wrote about this same need in July. And one more thing, The Hewlett Foundation paper, which is set for launch on Monday, is making the rounds big time already. Though I did not post it on Tuesday I'll post it here: I hope I don't lose credibility for "leaking this" ahead of schedule.

So, I hope this post clarifies my earlier posts. It is November 21 and I will never meet my NaNoWriMo goal. Especially if I have to have re-write for clarity the few words I am getting written this month. But, I'm getting a lot of reading done and taking comfort in posts like this about bad writing.

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