The philanthropy data gap: measuring what matters – Tavneet Suri

MIT Sloan Associate Prof. Tavneet Suri

MIT Sloan Associate Prof. Tavneet Suri

From Financial Times

As philanthropy becomes a common source of finance for poverty-fighting programmes, it is natural for donors to want data about their impact on the people they want to help.

Yet measuring the benefits of philanthropy is surprisingly hard. How can we define and measure “income” in a village of subsistence farmers? Can we ask a street kid enrolled in a violence-prevention programme about his illegal activities? How do we know if a change in nutritional outcomes was the result of a social programme and not some other variable, like a change in food prices? How can we measure non-quantitative or non-monetary outcomes, like women’s empowerment or entrepreneurial motivation?

For many years, aid impact studies were based on anecdotal evidence or fragments of data. Over the past decade, searching for a more rigorous approach, development researchers have applied the “gold standard” of medical research: randomised controlled trials. In an RCT, researchers allocate an intervention, such as a microfinance loan, to a randomly selected test group of people and compare their outcomes with a control group. Read More »

MIT’s EMBA Program takes volunteering to the next level — Nelson Repenning and Diana Brennan

 

MIT Sloan Professor Nelson Repenning

MIT Sloan Professor Nelson Repenning

MIT Sloan Alumna Diana Brennan

MIT Sloan Alumna Diana Brennan

With more nonprofits incorporating each year, competition for funding is fiercer than ever. Organizations that have traditionally relied on grants and philanthropy are struggling as they look for new revenue streams to become more sustainable and impactful. While these organizations provide critical services, they often lack management resources and expertise to reach their full potential in terms of the number of people they serve. After all, how many nonprofits can afford to hire leaders with MBAs?

However, a new form of volunteerism is starting to address this need: the donation of management expertise, skills, and ideas. This is a big change from even five years ago when being civically engaged primarily meant writing a check or spending a day cleaning up a park with coworkers. This change may be due in part to the convergence of the profit and nonprofit sectors creating the emerging field of social enterprise. This shift has exposed the many ways the nonprofit sector could use operational support. As a result, “help” is becoming more broadly defined.

This new type of volunteerism — the donation of intellectual capital — can have a profound effect on organizations. By taking volunteership to the next level and matching the skills and expertise of volunteers with organizations’ needs, nonprofits can make operational and strategic improvements or possibly even pivot to change the way they serve the community. While this isn’t the most common form of volunteerism, it has the potential to add tremendous and long-lasting value.

Read More »