How non-profit organisations (NPOs) in Singapore measure and manage impact – the notion of performance measurement and management, or PMM as it is known – has intrigued me, especially after a philanthropy and impact investing module in the business school. Unlike for-profit companies which rely on financial indicators, NPOs keep an eye on non-financial ones.
Five research questions were crafted:
1. How do NPOs in Singapore measure and manage their performance, and how do they use data and information to evaluate their impact (how do NPOs measure and manage)?
2. How do NPOs in Singapore understand PMM, and how do their interpretations vary – if they do vary – when compared to broader, academic definitions (how do NPOs understand PMM)?
3. Cognisant that beneficiaries – served by dissimilar organisations working in their respective sectors – may require different services, does the implementation of PMM vary across these NPOs? And in what forms (challenges associated with PMM)?
4. To what extent does PMM guide the objectives and activities of these NPOs? In addition, how effective has the employment of PMM been (has PMM been effective for NPOs)?
5. What are some of the challenges that NPOs and their employees have faced, in the implementation of PMM within the organisations? Are there platforms in the country which facilitate training and development or the sharing of best practices, and if so how constructive have these platforms been (does implementation vary)?
The executive summary can be accessed by clicking the feature image above. The theoretical framework as well as the key theoretical propositions are presented below, and they should serve as constructive starting points for researchers or future endeavours, and at the same time they should encourage non-profits – especially those who may not be familiar with PMM – to adopt relevant practices.
Most, if not all, of these 16 interviewed organisations have shown that active use and implementation of PMM have been beneficial, even if there may be challenges associated with the distillation of long-term outcomes and impact. In response to these challenges, the funders, funding agencies, and the government – key stakeholders in the ecosystem – should begin to step up, by providing the organisations with adequate manpower and resources to develop research capacities. The smaller non-profits can start with more robust and rigorous evaluations of their more effective or successful programmes, while the larger non-profits can strengthen their research units or enhance their collaborations with the local universities.
In the long run, if NPOs are empowered with stronger PMM capacities to evaluate their programmes and the impact of these programmes, the beneficiaries are likely to gain the most. This happens when programmes and services are managed more productively, the most productive endeavours are scaled up, while the less-than-productive ones are improved, and both collaboration and competition in the non-profit sector drive greater involvement – especially through funding – from the private sector, as well as greater innovation. And hopefully, this dissertation has laid out the initial blueprint for such undertakings to take root.