Beyond good intentions

While successfully providing counselling to victims of domestic violence, a Washington DC-based organization launched a new programme to treat the perpetrators of this violence. Shortly after the programme began, the organization discovered that its efforts were contributing to an increase in the violent tendencies of those they counselled. In short, the programme was doing more harm than good.

Fortunately, the organization has systems in place to manage its performance, so it was able to recognize the deficiencies of its programme and make the appropriate adjustments to improve performance – and possibly save lives. Unfortunately, the ability to effectively manage performance is rare in the human services sector. 

Each year, billions of dollars flow to organizations that intend to help the abused, disabled, uneducated, unemployed, homeless and hungry. Very few of these have a clear understanding of the impact of their efforts. It is therefore likely that programmes with no impact, negative impact, or no ability to demonstrate improvement are receiving financial support from donors. These are precious resources we can no longer afford to waste. By altering the flow of funds to organizations that have proven impact or the ability to manage their performance, we establish a more rational, effective allocation of funds.

Believing that the most effective organizations are those that actively manage their performance, Steve Butz (Founder, Social Solutions) and David Hunter (Hunter Consulting) created the Guide to Effective Social Investing. This guide offers six performance indicators that can be used to determine the likelihood that an organization can generate social value. A group of non-profit leaders then came together to gather feedback on the Guide and to promote awareness of the sector’s funding inefficiencies. This group, the Working Group for Effective Social Investing, met for the first time in November 2008. A follow-up meeting will take place in March/April 2009.

For more information
Contact Jeff Mason at or visit to download the Guide to Effective Social Investing and other resources.

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