Evidence Of Worth

Not-for-profit organisations face increased demands to demonstrate the value from their work.  When allocating scarce resources, or when competing for external support, charities and other not-for-profit organisations need to be able to provide evidence that their work really does make a difference.  That's easier said than done however, and many organisations struggle to agree on what outcomes they should be aiming for, even before they try and devise measures to track those outcomes.

Z/Yen Limited, the UK's leading risk/reward management firm have been working with our not-for-profit clients to implement practical approaches that allow them to measure the impact of their work.

For example, Z/Yen has been working with the MSC to try and prove the tangible value of the MSC's certification scheme for sustainable fishing using the same risk/reward option theory techniques that Z/Yen uses to help industry with decision making and government lobbying.

As another example, The Children's Society's Performance Measurement and Recording Initiative (MART Initiative) was designed to equip social work projects and units with the knowledge and ability to undertake performance measurement and recording in a harmonised way.  The benefits sought from MART include encouraging good practice, improving the quality of information, evaluating the effectiveness of practice and providing the ability to measure and learn from information shared between groups of projects.

In order to understand the extent to which the wider community of Not-for-Profits provide evidence of worth, Z/Yen has recently conducted some primary research designed to test the proposition that "Not-for-Profits are under increasing pressure to demonstrate that they add value". Our research programme included: 

  • desk research - where the team attempted to identify best practice around the world, but with an emphasis on the UK; 
  • face to face research - i.e.  client research, structured interviews, seminars and focus groups- where we gathered best practice ideas both from the Z/Yen client base and from top executives of other Not-for-Profit Sector organisations.

Z/Yen now perceives the sector to consist of organisations that attempt to achieve one or more of the four following types of Not-for-Profit outcomes, each of which has a different risk/reward profile and therefore different evidence of worth:

  • expanding frontiers to mitigate needs (e.g.  a medical charity developing drugs which might cure and/or prevent disease);
  • changing systems to remove or release needs (e.g.  an environmental organisation seeking to protect a depleting world resource);
  • service delivery to meet needs (e.g.  a developing world charity providing care for orphaned children in war-torn places);
  • communitarian to address needs for or through communal activity (e.g.  a volunteering organisation, a trades union or a professional institute).

Z/Yen's continuing research focuses on how Not-for-Profit Sector approaches to governance and accountability link with evidence of worth.  Meanwhile, Z/Yen's Not-for-Profit Sector practice is better equipped to help its clients to provide evidence of worth as a result of our research to date and our practical work with Not-for-Profit organisations.

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