An interesting article from the Guardian – How charity evaluators are changing the donations landscape – elaborates on the emergence of charity evaluators using the heart vs head metaphor.
“Charities often ask for donations by appealing to people’s hearts, not their heads. However, many large-scale donors, such as foundations and government departments, demand evidence that their money will be used well.
A new type of organisation, the charity evaluator, has started to assess voluntary sector organisations with similarly hard-headed techniques, using data and scientific research to advise individual givers where to donate.”
The article ends with a quote from Rob Mather from the evaluator, Against Malaria Foundation. “The vast number of charities still publish anecdotal accounts. That for me doesn’t cut it, because it’s storytelling.”
A simple observation on the article: it’s not an either/or proposition. Charities do not appeal to hearts or heads. They must appeal to both. In an ideal world, a charity would use video storytelling to inspire people to give, and to report back on the effects of their gift. At the same time, the backend of the organisation would be perfectly transparent – like a glass workshop – so that everyone could see what the organisation was doing, how much money was spent, what the results were, so evaluation is simple for everyone and trust is thorough. The ideal and only way to do this is increasing efficiency through transparency. It should not be extra work, it should be innovative.
An example of a glass workshop: Car Giant. It is a UK car dealer. The business consists of a giant parking lot of cars, and a web site which is essentially their database of stock. It is the same database salespeople use to conduct their business. It’s self serve. The cars you search for are the cars on the lot. Items in the database are not idealised versions – you’ll get a car just like the one pictured – it is the actual car. There is several pages of data on each vehicle. The price is fixed. You research, you do complex searches to select a vehicle, and you go to the dealer to pick up the car. If only government were so transparent. (IE6!?! ;-)