What if the once-a-year ‘reveals’ of a charity’s impact had the hype of iPhone 5? What if millions of people spent time blogging about program upgrades and the higher performance that the most dynamic charity in the world had developed in the past year? What if people were making viral videos and sketching out projections for a charity’s outcomes and functions before real pictures and numbers were revealed? I could only wish that the charities Excellence in Giving clients support stirred such anticipation to see their latest performance. I would love to receive a mysterious invite (like Apple is about to send to tech media writers) to attend a dramatic presentation of new charitable program designs and their increased productivity. Maybe one day the presentation of a charity’s annual report would warrant that hype.
Of course, you may critique my vision for the iPhone 5 model of charity annual reports. You may point out the gigantic difference between product design and program design, between technological development and human development. I get it. There is no apples-to-apples comparison here. Contributing to the development of human capacity, healthcare provision, equality and justice looks radically different than developing the new iPad, iPhone or (hoped for) iTV.
However, I won’t give up. I want the International Justice Mission to blow my mind with an annual ‘reveal’ of how they financially crippled the trafficking industry, legislatively forced a rise in perpetrator convictions, and economically incentivized governments and corporations to root out slave labour in the supply chain. I still dream of an invite that causes me to cancel everything else because Endeavor is going to show me how entrepreneurs in the developing world leveraged $3 billion of business growth to reverse unemployment percentages, healthcare shortages, and the number of families who can’t afford to educate their children. I want to waste time guessing about program design breakthroughs and saving my Benjamins in case the presentation of One Acre Fund‘s annual report captivates my imagination and warrants another big investment. I want charity program designers, implementers and partners to give me the feeling I get when Apple executives introduce each new upgrade and function to the latest iPhone.
I believe a few select organizations could live up to my iPhone 5 model for charity annual reports. A groundswell of expectation could be cultivated. News outlets could swarm to the most positive stories of human development in the world. The 44% of donors who said they could have afforded to give more last year but didn’t have enough confidence in charitable results could be inspired. At Excellence in Giving we have created clear, concise Grant Impact Reports to inspire our philanthropic clients in the meantime. But I’m still waiting for a mysterious invite. I’m waiting to attend a select event for funders that everyone can’t stop talking about because of such high expectations for the latest performance numbers and capabilities. I’m waiting for the iPhone 5 model for charity annual reports.
Paul Penley is director of research at the philanthropic advisory firm Excellence in Giving and creator of IntelligentPhilanthropy.com
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