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Assessing Good Works in the US

14 November 2002 at 12:11 pm
Staff Reporter
The US Independent Sector group has released a comprehensive report on the state of Not for Profits’ efforts to measure their organisational effectiveness.

Staff Reporter | 14 November 2002 at 12:11 pm


Assessing Good Works in the US
14 November 2002 at 12:11 pm

The US Independent Sector group has released a comprehensive report on the state of Not for Profits’ efforts to measure their organisational effectiveness.

While outcome measurement is a growing practice for the vast majority of the sector, a small portion of Not for Profits (less than 7 percent) and religious congregations (17 percent) have no plans to introduce methods to measure their accomplishments or results.

US organisations report that challenges to measurement their good works include lack of means to train staff and the belief that some accomplishments are intangible and therefore not easily measured. Religious congregations and environmental groups in particular held the belief that their accomplishments were intangible.

Other barriers reported were a lack of knowledge on how to measure results, limited capacity to collect data and difficulty in contacting former clients.

Balancing the Scales: Measuring the Roles and Contributions of Nonprofit and Religious Congregations details the record-keeping, evaluation and accountability practices of organisations in the arts, education, environment, health, human services, public benefit and religious congregation sub-sectors.

The report is part of Independent Sector’s Measures Project, an initiative launched in 1996 to address the lack of information about the contributions of the Not for Profit sector. More than 900 organisations and religious congregations participated in the survey.

Both Not for Profits and religious congregations illustrate their effectiveness and accountability to various stakeholders by collecting data on the costs of services provided, demographics of clients served, quality of services provided and external inspections of programs. Yet the rates of data collection among these types of organisations vary significantly:

 Fifty-eight percent of NFP’s report on the quality of services they provide while 21 percent of religious congregations do;
 Sixty-eight percent track client satisfaction with service while 34 percent of religious congregations track client satisfaction data; and
 Sixty-one percent use outside parties to evaluate their activities, and 38 percent of religious congregations use outside evaluation.

These findings can be partially explained by the fact that religious congregations are rarely asked by external sources to evaluate their results.

Sara E. Meléndez, the President and CEO of Independent Sector says Not for Profit organisations and religious congregations also demonstrate their accountability by their ethical beliefs, the work they do and how they select board members.

For example:
 Seventy-three percent of religious congregations and 48 percent of NFP’s have a formal statement of moral and ethical beliefs; and
 Fifty-nine percent of NFP’s and 39 percent of religious congregations develop strategic plans.

Independent Sector is a Not for Profit, non-partisan coalition of more than 700 US organisations, foundations, and corporate philanthropy programs, collectively representing tens of thousands of charitable groups in every state. Its mission is to promote, strengthen, and advance the Not for Profit and philanthropic community to foster private initiative for the public good.

If you would like an electronic version of the Executive Summary of the Balancing the Scales report just send us an e-mail to

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