Philanthrocapitalism Debate – The Good Samaritan and Performance Measurement

Posted on July 8, 2008. Filed under: Leadership | Tags: , |

There’s an interesting online debate about “Philanthrocapitalism” being held on the Global Philanthropy Forum, which is at

I have several posts on the discussion, and one that refers to my article about “The Good Samaritan and Performance Measurement” which is here for your convenience:

Is 2000 years long enough to demonstrate results?
Not with today’s performance measurement tools.

It’s also important that you have the right tool for the job, and that’s one of the huge challenges in the non-profit sector. If all you’re doing is selling boxes or sugar water, it’s easy to count how many you’ve sold. I’m also reminded of Abraham Maslow’s quote: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything tends to look like a nail.”

If on the other hand, your working on making the world better, it’s a lot harder as my article about “The Good Samaritan and Performance Measurement” shows:

The Good Samaritan & “Performance Measurement”
by Bill Huddleston

Currently, there’s a lot of hype in the world about being “results oriented” and the culture of “performance management” has seeped its way into almost every realm of American life, including business, government and now, the non-profit world as well.

Well, why shouldn’t it? Doesn’t it sound like it’s the only way to be, after all, who could be “against results” or against “performance measurement.” It sounds great, but like the question, “When did you stop beating your wife (or husband)?” it sets the stage in an extremely negative, and skewed fashion.

Let’s use a historical example, the story of the good Samaritan from the Bible is one that I believe is so widely known that it qualifies as a societal story, not just a religious one.

To recap, in the parable a traveler is robbed, beaten, stripped of his clothes and left for dead. Two different people walk by, leaving the robbery victim alone. Then a man from Samaria (the Good Samaritan) comes upon the man, and even though the two different groups hated each other, he stops to render aid.

The Samaritan takes pity on the victim, bandages him, pours oil and wine on his wounds, then puts the victim on his donkey and takes him to an inn and takes care of him. The next day, the Good Samaritan gives the innkeeper two dineri (this was two days wages at the time) and tells the innkeeper, “Look after him, and when I return I will reimburse you for any extra expense you have.” (The story is from Luke 10:29-35).

Now let’s apply modern performance measurement and outcome techniques to this story. With 2000 years of history the story still resonates, how many people have been helped because someone remembered the story of the Good Samaritan and acted in a way that was not perhaps their first impulse? We will never know, and to the performance management crowd, this incident would be recorded today as “too expensive” and “ineffective” – after all, the Samaritan only helped one person. We don’t know if the Samaritan ever came back and paid those extra expenses, and it was two day’s earnings to help just this one person.

It would also received the rating of: “Results Not Demonstrated” – we don’t know if the victim ever recovered, was permanently injured, or had mental impairment due to his injuries. All we know is that he had the crap beat out of him, multiple people walked by, until the “unclean” Samaritan stopped to help.

According to the performance measurement tools, the Good Samaritan “program” was a failure and had no impact.

I think not.

Copyright Bill Huddleston, All rights reserved.

Posted by Bill Huddleston to Philanthrocapitalism at July 8, 2008 8:40 AM

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Non-Profits are Not Businesses

Posted on March 15, 2008. Filed under: Fundraising, Leadership, Non-profits | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Non-profits are not businesses. That simple fact is being ignored in the vast majority of economic mumbo jumbo currently written about non-profits. Non-profits can, of course, be businesslike in their operations: they can have efficiently run organizations and a well-trained staff, and they can certainly deliver superior results.

Non-profits are not businesses in that people give money to non-profits with no possibility of getting it back. Donating to a charity is not the same as investing in the stock market or putting money in a savings account or money market fund.

Non-profits are not businesses in that people volunteer to work at non-profits. Volunteers at a non-profit are actually making a double contribution. Not only are they working for free, they pay a personal “opportunity cost,” missing out on money they could be earning and time they could spend elsewhere if they were not donating time and talent to the non-profit. Most importantly, for many non-profits, if the volunteers were not there to help deliver the services, the non-profit simply could not exist.

Non-profits are not businesses in that people care so passionately about the non-profit’s mission they willingly donate time, money and energy to help the charity succeed. When was the last time you went to your local supermarket and said, “Hi, I’m here to work for you for free, where do I start?” Or, “Since you only charged me $80 for my groceries, let me give you an additional $20 just because I’m glad you’re here.”

When you apply the norms of non-profits to businesses, it becomes immediately apparent that non-profits bear little resemblance to typical businesses.

Non-profits are not businesses in that they are more complex than businesses, needing to satisfy many more stakeholders and constituencies before they are able to say, “Yes, we are successful.” Businesses really only need to satisfy their owners (and their customers), and yes, of course, they need to operate within the law. It’s also true that many businesses are good corporate citizens and donate lots of money to various charities; indeed, some of the best encourage volunteerism in their employees, and I applaud all of them.

The point, however, is that non-profits are more complex entities than businesses, and have many more constituencies than owners or shareholders. Non-profits must also satisfy the community; their board of directors; their service recipients; their donors; their volunteers; and their professional staff. Some that provide services on behalf of government contracts have many additional sets of requirements for service delivery, reporting, and government auditing regulations for contractors. Non-profits must also meet the legal requirements of being a non-profit (as defined by law and IRS regulations).

Some of the current efforts to come up with the dollar value of donated time or count the hours that one donates cheapen the whole concept of the non-profit sector. These efforts are doomed to failure because they miss the fundamental point of “Why?” Why does someone volunteer? Why does someone give money? I believe that the short, truthful, and unifying answer for all donors and volunteers is the response, “I care!”

Donors and volunteers naturally want recognition, and to know that their gifts (monies or personal effort) are being used effectively; they may give more because of the tax codes at certain times of the year. But the first and fundamental response is always, “I care, that is why I give,” or “I care, that is why I donate my time to this great non-profit.”

That is to be absolutely applauded and celebrated, and it is one of the unique and unifying qualities of being an American. We are the most generous people on earth, with Americans giving more than $260 billion in 2005 according to Giving USA. That fact should be recognized, celebrated, and applauded.

What Do All Non-profits Share?

So if non-profits are not businesses, what are they? All non-profits share a common purpose, and it is actually a very simple concept. They exist to make their community and the world a better place. Now granted, the exact definition of what constitutes “a better place” is not easily agreed upon, and differs widely among these non-profits. That’s fine. There are more than 1.4 million non-profits in the United States, and there are probably 1.4 million different answers to that question. I have decided to not list all 1.4 million mission statements from these organizations, but even without having read all of them, if you look for the common ground you’ll see that they believe that accomplishing their mission would make the world a better place.

To learn more about the ways that workplace giving can promote the common good, as well as provide leadership development opportunities, please go to and request my special report about the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC).

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    Fundraising and Leadership Development through workplace giving, CFC = Combined Federal Campaign


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