February 4, 2008
In theory I like the idea of Great Nonprofits. Good, more focus on quality and accountability! But in practice I question if charitable organizations need another entity to comply with. As a development director for a community health center with over 90 grants, I am struck by the amount of justifying we must do in order to get (or stay) funded for something as vital as health care for poor people. I am also struck by how much pressure our staff are under to provide high quality care to our patients. This has been the same for all of the service-oriented nonprofits that I have worked for in the past, or am doing pro-bono work for now, regardless of whether they were well-established with large operating budgets, or small startups.
What is the mission of Great Nonprofits? the best I could glean from the website is that they want to set up a website like Yelp for nonprofits...'You already know that reviews by other people who have gone to a restaurant or tried out a doctor are the best way to find out about the quality of those services..'
The first question I ask is how many people who are targeted by people who access, let's just say safety-net services, have the time or resources to bother to register to this website and then write a review for a nonprofit? Most are too busy trying to get health insurance or pay the rent. I looked at some of the reviews and the only one I found that was negative was from someone who appeared to be trying to get a job and was disgruntled that the nonprofit only seemed to hire from within. So the website implies that this is a community service...For who's community?
The second question is actually for anyone who has dedicated their life to working in the nonprofit sector. Not as an academic or for a foundation -- who seem to be the people that are controlling the public discourse about what we should "do" with the nonprofit sector (Stanford Social Innovation Review is a good example). If you've never actually had a personal connection with a grant/donation funded nonprofit program budget--i.e. it feeds you or sustains the program you care about-- than I don't think your opinion counts for much.
Getting back to the question...Do YOU think it's appropriate for another nonprofit, and the people who frequent its website (who may or may not be your patients/clients), to represent the programs that you work to sustain with little stars on their web page, when it is most likely that donors--not patients/clients-- will be judging your program by the little stars?
Based on the cast of characters that make up the board and management of Great Nonprofits I am wondering if the organization's core concept was not just a half-baked idea cooked up in some well-funded, good-meaning "community forum" with token nonprofits in attendance. Nonprofits that were actually only there to meet foundation people so they could fund their nonprofit programs that are expected to cover their overhead at no more than 15%...And are very amenable to the bright ideas of the people who give them money.
Looking at the Board and staff bios, *very impressive*, with the exception of Bill Jackson and Tom Reis, none of them make any mention of actually working for a nonprofit. They are all either donors or academics.
So does internet-based rating of nonprofits hold any value? I guess we'll find out, looking at the kind of backing the organization attests to have on its website. I'm a little concerned that it could just end up creating more barriers for people like me to help nonprofits succeed by creating another bogus way for funders to screen who they give money to.
If the method by which Great Nonprofits appears to be attempting to transform accountability and improve quality for nonprofits is suspect, and I would contest that nonprofits ARE NOT LIKE RESTAURANTS (which is a whole other rant), why do it?
I don't get it.
By the way, I appreciate that Great Nonprofits put itself out there to be rated.
I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...
On it's website
Ways to make it better...
If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...
Want to learn more and hope they proved my assessment to be incorrect.
What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...
I like thinking about this kind of stuff because people who compose the board and staff of this organization are the kinds of people who impact, for better or worse, my ability to help my organization achieve its mission.
The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...
Not particularly aware of what it means to have your feet on the ground at a nonprofit. Or at least that's how it appears from their bios.
If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...
Totally destroy the reputation of many good nonprofits. Or, if I'm wrong, and the people who developed it and fund it aren't just on an ego trip, make a positive impact in terms of driving quality and accountability in the nonprofit sector.
Ways to make it better...
They focused on what they could do to help nonprofits achieve their missions, instead of giving funders another potentially flawed tool to judge them by
In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...
Messing up the chances of good nonprofits getting foundation funding because disgruntled staff and job candidates that know Great Nonprofit's website decide to write a bad review (or two or three or four...)
One thing I'd also say is that...
Post your mission statement. Or if you have already, put in plain site (like on your "About Us" page.
When was your last experience with this nonprofit?
General Member of the Public & I was thinking about doing some extra grant writing work to support my family and I saw a Great Nonprofit add for a Grant Writer on Craigslist. I checked out their website and it lead to me spend way more time doing this rating than I have.