“The nature of measurement is reliant on the type of giving structure one has put in place.”
The articulation of success is inextricably linked with the philanthropist’s primary motivation to support a specific area of need.
Some interventions have seemingly clear cut indicators of success – e.g. five thousand girls enrolled in school in the next five years. Yet even the most innocuous of objectives can hide a variety of confounding indicators. Did the girls who were enrolled complete school? How many dropped out in the first, second or final year? Why did they drop out? Was it a multitude of reasons or a specific problem in the cohort? How many matriculated with a grade that enabled entry to a tertiary level institution?
In the same way that business and for-profit companies rely on dashboards and performance management indicators or assess return on investment and fund performance, philanthropic investments require analysis and monitoring that allows emergent learning and course correction in the journey to impact.
Ongoing monitoring by an outsourced or in-house team that tracks an agreed set of indicators to deliver on the theory of change allows for, recalibration where necessary and overall learning on how to address the identified problem more effectively. The monitoring and evaluation (M & E) team have the same responsibility that a fund manager and administrator have in tracking and reporting on an investment funds performance.
Many grantmaking institutions include an allocation in the region of about 10% of the overall grant specifically towards knowledge management, monitoring and evaluation. For many a small institution this modest addition to their grant is worth its weight in gold.
When the central function of measurement ceases to be about the recipient’s ability to learn from the measurement process, and starts to lean too heavily towards fulfilling an obligation for the funder, then it ceases to be an asset for change. It has likely become a bureaucratic endeavor, which no longer serves its intended purpose.