Measuring Non-Profit Performance -- Self-Review & Charity Monitors

Member charities of the United Way of the Coastal Empire (Georgia) are receiving visits from volunteer internal inspectors during their fall campaigns, savannahnow.com reports. Denise Oberlin, an inspector, accompanied Patti Lyons on a food delivery for Senior Citizen’s Inc. and was told that three out of four of the people served by the Agency were below the poverty level. Lyons also told Ms. Oberlin that there were additional needy seniors in the area that the Agency couldn’t serve because they didn’t have enough money.


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Ms. Oberlin was one of the 100 charity inspectors the United Way of the Coastal Empire has trained to make sure that the agencies receiving money from United Way are spending it effectively. Reviewers are trained in evaluating nonprofits and sent out in teams to visit the 38 member charities of the regional United Way.

Member charities are told when the inspectors are coming and can prepare for their site visits and questions, Savannahnow.com says, but preparations are time-consuming. Even with the opportunity to prepare for the inspections, problems were found in two annual visits to one agency and the United Way eventually cancelled the agency’s funding.

In Kansas City, DonorEdge, an online databank of the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, designed to allow donors to view detailed financial and administrative information about organizations served by the Foundation, has aroused negative reactions from local nonprofits, according to the Kansas City Star. Charities were invited to submit “profiles” into the system that would include mission statements, staff and program descriptions, and financial and operational information. Three out of four told Mark Shapiro, a nonprofit business consultant who surveyed area nonprofits, that after expending the effort required to enter the databank, they never received any money or organizational benefit as a result.

Acknowledging that the sponsors of DonorEdge had underestimated what they were asking for, Jan Kreamer, Foundation president said that they have learned from experience. Part of the learning experience, Kreamer told the Star, was realizing that DonorEdge had been oversold as a benefit to nonprofits.

Since the debut of DonorEdge, 500 nonprofit staff members have attended DonorEdge seminars and 350 have attended one-on-one sessions with DonorEdge staff to learn about the system and how to get in, the Star reports. Kreamer says that while providing support for nonprofit members is a high priority for the Foundation, “we have to focus on our main responsibility: we have to make sure the dollars entrusted to us are well spent.”

The concept of online regional and local databanks like DonorEdge, offering detailed information about charities, is gaining adherents elsewhere in the country. Community foundations in Texas and Tennessese have licensed the DonorEdge concept and more are expected to join them.

“Fortunately we learned from Kansas City,” Marilyn Brown, DonorEdge director at the Greater Houston Community Foundation told the Star.

In a novel approach to educating donors, philanthropist Doris Buffett, sister of Warren Buffett, has provided seed money for a course at the University of Mary Washington that teaches students how nonprofits operate, the Associated Press reports.

“Hopefully, some of them will make a good living and at some point in their lives, they’ll be engaged in philanthropy,” Ms. Buffet said.

Students compile a databank of nonprofit and community organizations, draft a mission statement and apply for grants. Other students evaluate the grant applications. The class should also be viewed in the context of the huge growth in the nonprofit sector, instructor and economics professor Robert Rycroft told the AP.

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