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Philanthropists Challenged to Measure Performance and Impact


6 September 2018 at 8:39 am
Luke Michael
A group of philanthropists are challenging their sector to better measure the performance and impact of its funders, to overcome a “power imbalance” holding back giving in Australia.


Luke Michael | 6 September 2018 at 8:39 am


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Philanthropists Challenged to Measure Performance and Impact
6 September 2018 at 8:39 am

A group of philanthropists are challenging their sector to better measure the performance and impact of its funders, to overcome a “power imbalance” holding back giving in Australia.

Sean Barrett, the head of the Origin Foundation, said there was no equitable way to measure the foundation’s performance, despite expecting a certain level of evaluation from the organisations it funded.

“If, as a funder, we expected evaluation from our grantees then we had to be answerable to them and measure ourselves,” Barrett said.

In response, the Origin Foundation commissioned research organisation Pollinate to establish the Australian Philanthropic Benchmark (APB), which will launch on Thursday at Philanthropy Australia’s national conference.

The benchmark identifies what an organisation is doing well, what it could do better, and measures performance over time against an industry benchmark.  

Barrett told Pro Bono News the APB would help gather honest feedback and expose problems impacting the sector’s ability to be effective with funding.

“I think a key point is that this tool overcomes the power imbalance between the funder and those who are funded…because this power imbalance stifles honest feedback,” he said.

Barrett said the tool had the potential to make giving more effective in Australia.

“It could make an enormous impact on the effectiveness of philanthropy. We have to make sure what we’re giving is making the biggest impact that it can,” he said.

“We can’t do that by sitting in an ivory tower. We have to listen to our partners, but the problem is our partners are reluctant to give us the hard truth sometimes because they don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them.

“This tool is a way of them telling us how we can improve our performance so that the money we give is more impactful.”

The APB currently involves seven other foundations, including the Cages Foundation and Dusseldorp Forum.

Teya Dusseldorp of Dusseldorp Forum said the data provided by the APB was “gold” for her organisation.

“Not only in checking our effectiveness as a foundation but also setting our future goals and the strategy and resources to underpin this. Without this feedback from our partners we are operating blind,” Dusseldorp said.

Rachel Kerry of the Cages Foundation added that the foundations involved so far had been able to improve their performance and impact.

“The APB already represents the largest dataset on philanthropic performance in Australia,” Kerry said.

“Adoption by others would continue to strengthen the benchmark and act as a catalyst for improved giving across the sector.”


Luke Michael  |  Journalist  |  @luke_michael96

Luke Michael is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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