The Importance of Measuring a Charity’s Impact

I’ve been an employee of CureSearch for Children’s Cancer for six months.  My position here is to raise money by inviting people to contribute to our search for cures.  I love fundraising and most people think I’m crazy for it.  More on that another time.  Today I want to tell you about something I’ve been astonished by since I arrived here.

At CureSearch, we talk about overhead and fundraising ratios A LOT, too much.  In my time here, we’ve talked about this topic more than I have in my entire 25 year career with other charities.  CureSearch used talked to you about overhead to program ratios because federal grant money allowed them to far surpass most organizations.  But such ratios are not sustainable if an organization wants to move forward and grow through public philanthropy.  So, now we find ourselves talking about ratios because we’re worried that you, our donors and investors, will be concerned when the numbers don’t look as great as they have in the past.

It’s my suspicion that in the past CureSearch, like many other charities, used overhead ratios to measure and talk about success.  But I propose to you that such a model doesn’t work.  In fact, after you finishing reading this blog post, watch this 18 minute video on “Why the way we think about charity is dead wrong.”  This video, with over 1.2 million in two weeks, will transform the way you think about charities.

The real measurement should be about how we measure impact in a children’s cancer research organization.  How do we prove to you that your gift makes a difference in the lives of children with cancer?  Scientific research can take 20 years to get from the lab to the oncologist’s office.   With such a long window, how can CureSearch demonstrate its impact and continue to engage you as a donor?

These are questions we wrestle with every day.  We know the answer is NOT in the measure of our overhead expenses.  And we know that part of the answer lies in showing you successful results from the research we fund with the dollars you so generously donate.

We just released our 2013 Funding Platform that includes our new Acceleration Initiative.   We’re dreaming big.  We’re innovating.  These qualities are who CureSearch is now and will continue to be because children with cancer deserve nothing less.

Innovation is our new overhead, and it costs money to do it right.  Doing it right will lead to more children cured. So the conversations at CureSearch continue, and happily, we focus more of our time now on impact.

I invite you to join our conversation on this subject.  Tell us what you want.

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