Yesterday’s discussion

Posted: August 13, 2010 in Bubba posts

Apparently a lot of people are interested in discussing nonprofit vs. business practices, we even had to move to a bigger conference room. Unfortunately the debate went south pretty quickly. To summarize, “if nonprofits operated more like business then ….” fill in your own (often heavily uninformed) comment and there is our discussion. At four separate occasions I asked people to back their comments and opinions with research or any type of investigation over time that support the claim that businesses are better at solving social problems to the degree that nonprofits should seek to mimic them, but ignorance is apparently bliss or it is “obvious that businesses are more efficient”. Still, efficiency is not effectiveness and once again I had to surrender to foundation executives and nonprofit consultants who are better salesmen than I am.

Perhaps our most interesting debate focused on outcome measures – are OM objective or socially constructed creatures? In particular, when can OM provide useful information about the impact of nonprofit activities? I argued that OM are often more political than actually useful tools to capture effectiveness especially since OM’s tend to be very short-term in nature. Alan Johnson put his finger on this problem when asking is the mainstream ready for output-based aid? In addition, GPOBA had launched an e-book about outcome-based activities and best practices. It is also interesting to notice that even foundation executives cannot still not differentiate between outputs and outcomes.



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