The Art of Influence
In a recent paper, Kristen Grimm of Spitfire Strategies writes about a topic that goes to the heart of what all advocacy groups attempt to do—that is, influence the process by which policy decisions get made. Grimm presents a series of four elements to successful “influence strategies,” from understanding the decision(s) and decision-maker(s) involved to exploring ways you can intervene in the process. Two things are crystal clear. First, background research (on the political context, the individual decision-makers, other players, etc.) is pretty darn important. Second, The West Wing lives on!
Conducting an evaluation can be quite pricey. But if you’re a nonprofit with limited resources, there are ways to integrate evaluation into your work without much cost. In a post for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Matt Guttentag shares a few pointers on using proxy indicators that tell you if you are indeed making headway toward your desired outcomes. The one investment organizations should be prepared to make to get these indicators right is time. And, of course, the brain power of motivated staff.
Identifying “Impactful” Nonprofits
In the spirit of “ROI” and other bang-for-your-buck measures, GiveWell studies nonprofits to help charitable folks select an organization best positioned to make the most out of their small (or not so small) donations. Co-founder Elie Hassenfeld explains in a blog post their approach to evaluating these nonprofits. While he focuses exclusively on service delivery programs (and GiveWell appears to also), Hassenfeld’s emphasis on the “positive impact on people’s lives” is a good thing. Now, for advocacy groups with various policy goals and strategies for influence, whether that should be measured is another question altogether.