In developing our Stakeholders Union, an independent philanthropy testing service, we’ll need to develop a testing process. But first we’ll need to decide what kind of philanthropic service we want to test – our neighborhood soup kitchen, its job training and employment center, our state’s coalition for or against your favorite cause, or our community foundation seeking donors for its discretionary grantmaking program.
And how would we test this philanthropic service? Think cars – Consumer Reports includes ratings of Handling, Safety, Economy, Styling, Comfort. They test their cars around a track, noting their performance in dozens of ways, question consumers on their experience, and report out using simple but informative tables and graphs.
We’ll start with a challenging example, let’s say our state’s coalition for/against (your cause here), which we’ll refer to as SCFAYCH. What would we look for in “testing” SCFAYCH? What is it we want SCFAYCH to do really well?
Bottom line, we want it to contribute to re-shaped policies and practices that strongly influence my state’s indicator data on the status of My Cause. In other words, we want The Problem to be reduced (or The Opportunity to be enhanced), as helped by the work of my State Coalition working on the problem.
Above the bottom line, there are many SCFAYTCH organizational activities to be supported and victories to be achieved, each requiring funding, and testing to be sure it’s being done well. These are akin to handling, economy, styling, etc — elements of performance and quality that help make up the complete package.
We want SCFAYTCH to push on key barriers or obstacles to re-shaping these policies and practices.
We want it to gain the support of enough people in key positions to make real changes.
We want it to promote solutions that make sense, seem feasible, and are ultimately acceptable to the growing base of support.
We want it to become big enough, strong enough, and smart enough to help make the key systems and markets make the necessary changes.
We want it to run the organization consistent with its goals and ideals.
For each of these performance dimensions, we still have to devise the tests that show us the evidence, reportable in Stakeholder Reports (the magazine of the Stakeholders Union), that this SCFAYCH produces the above results, and that an investment in this coalition, as opposed to others competing for my attention, is a good investment.
Next: Am I serious?
Steven E. Mayer / June 10, 2011