« Opera in America | Main | Readings (November 4, 2010) »

A 'Flip' Chat With...Kate Robinson, Producer, 'Saving Philanthropy'

November 03, 2010

(This is the tenth in our series of conversations with thought leaders in the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors. You can access other chats in the series here, including our chat with Will Weiss, executive director of the Arts & Business Council of New York.)

"Are we making a difference?"

No question in recent years has generated more debate within the nonprofit sector. And the sides in that debate, if not the terms, have been reasonably clear: those who believe that impact and effectiveness are predicated on clearly articulated strategy, regular measurement of well-defined outcomes, and dissemination of lessons learned; and those, like Dan Palotta, who believe that the tools used to measure effectiveness are flawed and that a focus on measuring effectiveness is likely to "create a market around the problems that are easiest to solve."

A debate, in other words, for those with strong opinions and a thick skin. Or so I thought until I met the charming Kate Robinson, founder and director of FSP Creative Advocacy and a former director of strategic initiatives for Social Solutions Global, Inc., a leading provider of performance management software. Kate is executive producing (and her brother is directing) Saving Philanthropy: The Voyage From Resources to Results, a one-hour documentary film that spotlights a number of social service organizations (Roca, Nurse-Family Partnership) using performance management systems and outcomes measurement to achieve extraordinary results. (To watch a trailer for the movie, click here.)

Earlier this week, I chatted with Kate about her reasons for making the movie, her advice for organizations looking to demonstrate their effectiveness, and why philanthropy needs to be "saved."

If you're reading this in an e-mail, click here.

(Total running time: 7 minutes, 5 seconds)

What do you think? Should nonprofits be doing more to measure their effectiveness? Is it even possible to do so in "an evaluation landscape cluttered with distinct and warring [assessment] methodologies" (as the Monitor Institute puts it)? And if it is -- or is at least worth trying -- who should bear the costs of those efforts?

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

-- Mitch Nauffts

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Interesting idea for a film, but I question why -- at least in the trailer -- someone can be allowed make a pretty damning claim (that appears to go unchallenged) that there's "absolutely no way of knowing if any nonprofits are doing any good." Also would like to see the source for other hyperbolic claims that make it sound like all grantmaking is slipshod because it doesn't look at performance data.

Hi Bruce- Thanks so much for taking the time to watch the interview and the trailer, and to post your comments. In response, David Hunter (not just "someone" btw, but one of the most most informed and prominent critical voices in the sector) doesn't say "any" non-profits, he says "most," which is a pretty big difference, not to mention completely accurate. Most non-profits cannot, in fact, demonstrate that they are "doing any good" let alone achieving their stated goals.

Second, Steve Goldberg states not that "all" grantmaking, but 90-95% of it, is based on relationships and storytelling. Your interpretation that this is slipshod is accurate in my opinion, but I disagree that it can be dismissed as hyperbole. As for the source, please consult Steve Goldberg's book (listed in the trailer) "Billions of Drops in Millions of Buckets: Why Philanthropy Doesn't Advance Social Progress."

Thanks again, and we sincerely encourage you to see the film when it comes out early next year, as these concepts are meant to only be raised in the trailer, and thoroughly addressed and explored in the film itself.

Regards,

Kate Robinson
Producer, Saving Philanthropy

Kate, I was wrong to say "any" instead of "most." Apologies. I'll agree that we don't know if nonprofits are doing any good. That said, it's possible that most are -- we don't know. I objected to the comment because it has a "guilty until proven innocent" quality. That might just be me. On the other hand, we'll have to disagree that saying grantmaking is "slipshod" is not hyperbolic.

Fair enough Bruce! I do understand your issue with the guilty until proven innocent stance, although it is our contention that the onus for demonstrating effectiveness does in fact rest with the non-profit organizations. After all, they are operating on the premise that they can effect some type of positive change- so why should they not be held accountable for doing so?

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Contributors

Quote of the Week

  • "[L]et me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is...fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance...."


    — Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd president of the United States

Subscribe to Philantopic

Contributors

Guest Contributors

  • Laura Cronin
  • Derrick Feldmann
  • Thaler Pekar
  • Kathryn Pyle
  • Nick Scott
  • Allison Shirk

Tweets from @PNDBLOG

Follow us »

Archives

Tags