Friday, June 14, 2013

Cherry Picking Impact Measures

Navigating grocery aisles in search of healthy foods has become an exercise in futility.  This is, in part, due to the proliferation of nutritional information.  Food companies have become quite adept at selective disclosure of nutritional information, from sugary cereals prominently labeled "gluten free" to fried foods boasting of "zero trans fats."  These cherry picked disclosures are meaningless at best and misleading at worst.  As the acceptance of impact measures for nonprofits starts to spread, similar concerns are sure to arise.  Will we see nonprofits collecting a variety of impact measures only to cherry pick those that paint them in a favorable light to donors?  Absent standardized (and audited) measures, donors who care about impact should be aware of the inevitable bias in those impact measures prominently displayed on websites and glossy annual reports.  It may pain some to admit it, but these issues may bring many back to the less thrilling (but also more objective and standardized) measures provided by accounting.

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