How to measure better the effectiveness of NGOs?

Experts discuss ways of devising an effective NGO development strategy


28.11.2014, Moscow

During the 4th International Scientific Practical Conference on Strategic Management under the theme “Social mission, strategy and accountability – key success factors of power, society and business”, a round-table event was held where experts discussed ways in which the effectiveness of NGOs can be measured, what factors determine an organisation’s strength, and how an effective NGO strategy can be developed.

Stable finances are achieved through other more general means linked, in the main, to relationships between NGOs and society, according to Maria Chertok, Director of the Charitable Aid Foundation. “Creating solid, individual NGOs is a really achievable goal, but only if the NGO sector adopts a different role and attitude from the one they currently hold”, she added.

According to Chertok, there is a need to bring greater clarity to the blurred nature of boundaries within the sector. Traditional organisations operate on the same playing field alongside other players, such as unregistered volunteer groups and social entrepreneurs, which makes it difficult to find common values and agendas, she added. The present uncertainty surrounding the role of the third sector within society, its relationships with authority and the business community, is illustrated by the fact that NGOs have no discernible values, says Chertok. People look at NGOs and do not see any intermediaries between donors and beneficiaries, so the myth arises that not all money reaches its target.

One indicator of NGO success is qualitative changes that are made to the lives of beneficiaries. Chertok added that “When we speak of sustainability, it’s absolutely vital to develop the practice of undertaking impact assessments. This is important both for spreading humanist values within society and for the image of the sector, together with evaluating its contribution to the development of the society. An impact assessment is not the same as measuring performance, but more an evaluation undertaken from the perspective of stakeholders and beneficiaries”, said Chertok.

Measuring effectiveness is a systemic method of improving an organisation’s performance, together with presenting information on results achieved to interested parties, according to Irina Efremova-Garth, Council member of the Donors’ Forum and Board member of the education charity “META”. She emphasises that such a practice is key to an organisation’s way of working and helps in maintaining quality standards. Irina refers to a universally acknowledged definition of impact assessment, namely changes that take place within an external environment beyond the scope of any one programme. The process of change within an external environment is a complex one, involving more than one NGO and not just the third sector. Perhaps, she added, one could limit assessments of an organisation’s performance and effectiveness. The Downside Up charity is an excellent example of how information on social successes can be publicised throughout Russia, Irina remarked.

Irina has identified several ways in which NGOs can increase their assessment capabilities, e.g. by improving programme design and involving those engaged in the development and financing of these projects. In addition, evaluation practices should be incorporated within an organisation’s ways of working. Irina also believes in the need to introduce an approach for dealing with the media in NGO activities, as well as strengthening the role of donors in promoting an evaluation culture.

Author: Georgy Ivanushkin

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