In Chapters 1 and 2, it was pointed out that non-profit organizations in most Western countries are under pressure from funders, government contractors and clients to show that they are ‘making a difference’. They eagerly seek valid and reliable measurements that will yield clear indicators of how well they are doing. Many also yearn for proven ‘best practices’ for managing their organizations which, when implemented, will ensure that they run as efficiently and effectively as they can. This way, if they are unable to show directly the impact of their efforts, at least they can assure concerned stakeholders that they are doing things the way they ‘ought’ to be done.
Chapter 2 looked at the questions: (1) Is there a set of performance indicators which can be easily applied by many different kinds of charitable organizations and which will yield the clear picture of impact that stakeholders want? and (2) Are there universally agreed-upon ‘best practices’ applicable to all non-profit organizations which have been proven to increase performance? The chapter provided an introductory look at the underlying theory and concept of evaluation, and in a nutshell, concluded that the answers to both questions are ‘not yet’. But there are some promising leads in the form of processes that a non-profit organization and its stakeholders can adopt which could help improve the analysis of performance and, most importantly, lead to better decisions on needed changes that are right for it (if not for others).
To recap the argument presented in Chapter 2, there are two main sets of reasons why the impact of non-profit organizations and their programmes is so difficult to measure. One has to do with the basic technical and logic-related problems of all evaluation systems, and the other with common human foibles that arise when evaluation is undertaken.