Monday, April 1, 2013

Study shows most of what your charity agreed upon yesterday is out-of-date today

A new study says that most charities are surprisingly less effective than most of them think. The ten year long study by a team of scientists from the University of Southern North Dakota found that the majority of what US charities decided on one day was totally out-of-date the next day.

“We expected US charities to be inefficient and ineffective but not to this scale,” said study leader Dr. Dibble Brewer. “We found that 60% of the charities in the study had most of their plans invalidated the day after they made them.”

The study looked at the strategic planning process of more than 1,200 US charities, including large fundraising organizations and small volunteer service associations. It followed each major decision that a charity made and then followed up at certain time intervals for up to a year.

The scientists concluded that 60% of charity’s strategic decisions fell apart the day after they were made. A further 30% became useless a week later. Some 9% actually managed to stay intact for the year-long study period. The remaining 1% were decisions that were invalidated the minute everyone left the meeting room.

The plans went down the drain for mostly the same set of reasons. Nearly half failed because of the over-optimism of the executive director/CEO of the charity. A further 30% fell apart because of unpredictable outside forces. The rest failed because the charity was cursed or because of a strange kind of amnesia that made most of the staff forget what was in the plan.

“We were surprised to discover that a small, but significant number of people in these charities seemed to forget everything in the plan, often the moment they left the meeting room in which they approved it,” said Brewer. “When we followed up, most of these people didn’t remember the decisions they made and a few even denied that they ever were involved in our study at all.”

Brewer says the study could not find a definitive root cause of the lack of decision-making effectiveness, although they have suggested a number of research ideas for further study.

“It could be that charities are over-worked and under-staffed. It could be that the pace of change is just getting faster and faster. Or it could be Devil possession or mass hysteria,” said Brewer. “We’ll have to do more research to figure it out.”

The study also found that most charities aren’t surprised by their lack of effectiveness. Many thought that it was standard in the sector.

“We kind of expect things to go bad,” said Sarah Snidely, the CEO of the League of Big Honking Charities. “We’re charities. Nothing we do makes much sense really.”