Every once in a while I ask folks on the listserv for ARNOVA ( Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action) if they know whether research has been done about this topic or that.
Lately the responses I receive are simultaneously disappointing and intriguing.
First, no one finds research to address my question, and
Second, I get a slew of off-list emails from folks, asking, “If you get an answer, please let me know – this is of intense interest to my own work as well.”
So I thought I would share some of my questions here. Perhaps someone will read this and point me to research that does indeed exist to answer my questions. Or perhaps someone will say, “That’s a great idea! I’m taking that up for my thesis!”
Or perhaps we can just gather a huge ongoing repository of questions we wish someone would research and answer, if for no other reason than to just get it out of our systems!
So herewith, my top few. Please add your own!
Frequently a board or a funder will request an outside assessment of an organization’s systems. The assumption is that the organization will then take the assessment to heart and make recommended changes.
Research Questions: Do organizations who receive such assessments actually change / become more effective as a result of the assessment? In what percentage of cases is an outside assessment really used as a management tool for improvement? Three years after the assessment has been done, is change noticeable?
The drumbeat for mergers in the community benefit world seems to get louder every year, in good times and bad times, despite proof in the for-profit world that the majority of mergers fall apart in the short term AND the long term. Regardless of whether mergers last in the community benefit world, and regardless of whether or not mergers provide for increased efficiency, those are not my questions. My questions have to do with the only thing that matters – what difference does it make to the community?
Research Questions: What percentage of mergers among community benefit organizations result in increased community impact? Is it more mission effective to have a greater number of organizations with the same mission or fewer?
“If only organizations all had capacity building interventions, they would all run more smoothly and create more impact! Foundations should be funding more capacity building!” If you have not heard this lament, then you haven’t been in this sector for long.
Research Question #1: What percentage of organizations who receive capacity building intervention actually change their behaviors / increase their effectiveness for the long term? How many revert back to the same problems for which they needed capacity building? After 2 years? After 5 years? What is the staying power of capacity building assistance?
Research Question #2: When an organization receives capacity building intervention, is there any measurable difference in the impact that organization has in the community? What percentage of organizations who receive capacity building assistance are making a more marked improvement in their communities’ quality of life?
If the research has already been done to address these questions, would someone share the findings here? And if the research has not been done, would someone please pass this along to a PhD review committee and see if they might suggest it?
Those are just a few of my questions. What questions about this sector’s work do you wish someone would research and have answers for?
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