So What?

Words of (nonprofit) wisdom?

February 5, 2016  • David Devlin-Foltz

“So What?” – Your BI-Weekly Guide to Advocacy With Impact

Lovingly selected and lightly snarked by Team APEP: David Devlin-Foltz, Susanna Dilliplane, and Christine Ferris

Words to cringe by

We have a little crush on Vu Le, author of the usefully snarky Nonprofit with Balls blog. Like your pals at APEP, he kids because he loves. His latest post offers smart and sometimes painful definitions in this dictionary of common nonprofit terms and concepts.  Some relevant favorites:

Thought leader: A leader among thoughts. When referring to self, marks an irritating, pretentious person/org.

Innovative: We’re trying to sound edgy and disruptive.

Disrupt: We’re trying to sound edgy and innovative.

Strategic planning: We’re gonna make some stuff up about how the next 5-10 years are going to shake down. Then, we’re going to do something totally different within 6 months of the plan.

Strategic plan: A really expensive binder on a shelf that can occasionally be used as a doorstop.

Innovative evaluation: Survey Monkey responses.

Logic Model: Our work distilled into a one-page chart using 3-point font for Type-A individuals. 

Incentives, impact, and performance

The NY Times ran a useful investigative piece on the Wounded Warriors Project; the headline accuses WWP of “spending lavishly on itself” and criticizes WWP’s overhead levels. Others agreed. In response, Charity Navigator added WWP to its watchlist. But we and others have criticized Charity Navigator for over-emphasizing overhead as a measure of effectiveness. The Times story reveals a different (and all too common) problem at WWP: incentives based on counting outputs – like the number of vets placed in jobs – without regard to the quality of those placements. We know this story: misplaced performance indicators, misplaced incentives, and inflated claims about impact. But yeah – let’s skip the lavish parties too, guys.

Assessing impact after the fact

OK, many of you are regular readers of AEA365. But if you were distracted by pre-caucus hysteria, it’s not too late to catch this useful piece on post-project debriefs. Now gather your stakeholders and reassess the post’s impact…