Rankled over rankings


Andrew Watt

Another charity ranking system is out, this time in Canada: theMoneySense Charity 100 (not currently available online but the 2010 version is here).

It takes a very small sample of 100 out of the more than 85,000 charities in Canada and attempts to take the dozens of factors that affect fundraising costs and compact them down into one all-encompassing, objective letter grade.

As AFP has said many times, such rankings are arbitrary, biased and in the end, tell a donor nothing about how good a charity is at fulfilling its mission or how effective it is.

Fundraising cost is an important issue, but a ranking system like theMoneySense Charity 100 does nothing to identify charities that are really good at fundraising or making change in our society. It contributes nothing to public understanding about what it takes to keep the show on the road, or what it takes to achieve impact.

The Canadian Broadcasting Company has also entered the fray with a recent article on fundraising costs.

Fundraising cost is a powerful and emotional issue for most donors, but it’s also very complicated. A responsible commentator tries to achieve a balanced tone – we all know that public education about costs is badly needed.

The CBC article is especially frustrating because it doesn’t attempt to explain why the organization’s fundraising costs are increasing and barely touches on why its priorities might be shifting. It simply implies that funding for research is dropping because of increases in fundraising activities without exploring the strategy behind any changes.

Even more telling are the hundreds of comments, many of which indicate the high degree of cynicism and lack of understanding the public has about the issue.

We will continue to come out strongly on this issue because being quiet or waiting to speak to donors in small groups isn’t going to work. Many people have already made up their mind about fundraising cost, and we’re not going to change them without being heard.

Have an idea about how best to respond to these types of article? Love to hear from you?

Andrew Watt is president and CEO of the Association of Fundraising Professionals

This post was first published on the AFP blog, 11 July 2011

Tagged in: Charity ranking Effectiveness Impact measurement

Comments (1)

Nick Perks

We're still losing this battle. Last year a Barclays / Ledbury Research survey of wealthy individuals came out with the depressing statistic that efficiency and the amount spent on administration were the top two most important factors used to choose a particular charity, once a general cause had been identified.

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