Friday, September 24, 2010

Whatever Donor Wants?

But before we rush to the toolkit and assume that better data is all that donors want and need, it’s important to take a step back and remember that while metrics are critical and have their place, they’re only one piece of the puzzle. As studies indicate, there are other equally-important things to consider, among them, personal relationships, family dynamics, social networks, values, and commitment to particular causes or issues.
That is from a nice article by Cynthia Gibson in the Non-Profit Quarterly.  As someone who studied economics and cost-benefits analysis in grad school, I probably appreciate and rely on data more than most.  But at the same time, I also realize that data is not what determines most decisions - even at so-called expert aid agencies and foundations.

For many years, I was annoyed by this and felt that harder arguments and more facts would sway people. But changing human nature, as desirable as that may be, is something rarely achieved.  So perhaps, as I noted earlier, the best approach is to try to work with - rather than reform - human nature to improve decisions about philanthropy and aid.

For marketplaces like GlobalGiving, this does not mean giving up emphasis on data and impact.  To the contrary.  One of the key functions of a good marketplace is to use metrics in the background to drive the average quality of projects higher and higher over time - and to do this while enabling donors to find good projects that resonate with their personal relationships, family dynamics, social networks, values, and favorite causes.