Thursday, December 20, 2007

Taking Accountability to the Next Level

I think this is a really interesting idea: these guys at are asking non-profits to really quantify what results they achieve with donations. Their methods sound a little hard to take (one charity said that the person who called them for stats and facts seemed evasive about what they were doing and for whom they were doing it) but the idea of taking accountability beyond the "how much do you spend on fund raising v. how much do you spend on your programs" is the right way to go.

When you're raising money, it is absolutely critical that the donations that people make go to the places they intended for them to go. That's it. So we need to have transparent and rigorous systems in place to account for this. If someone gives me $10,000 for the division of embarrassing problems, I should be able to follow that check into the accounting system and out the other end to address embarrassing problems. That is the bottom line, at least from the donor's perspective, and systems that allow me to quickly report that back to my donor are the minimum requirement for accountability.

In a perfect world, all non-profits would have tight fiscal controls that allow them to more quickly and easily answer the kinds of questions the GiveWell guys are asking them. Seriously, if I give you $10,000 for a particular use, say for repellent-infused mosquito nets, you should be able to show me that you really put $10,000 worth of repellent-infused mosquito nets into people's houses. Donors deserve it.

A special note to GiveWell -- you might could go ahead and get the .org version of your domain name instead of having an unfriendly 403 error display there.

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