Here’s a recommended read for anyone interested in measuring the effectiveness of a faith-based charity. The Heritage Foundation has published a special report titled, “Outcome-Based Evaluation: Faith-Based Social Service Organizations and Stewardship” by Patrick F. Fagan, Ph.D., Claudia Horn, Calvin W. Edwards, Collette Caprara, and Karen M. Woods — Acton’s former Director of Effective Compassion.
Outcome-based evaluation has the potential to engender a revolution of increased effectiveness in the faith community and to debunk skeptics’ claim that faith-based programs are only about “feel good” results rather than producing solid and measurable impacts. When administered properly, OBE can help both to clarify and to fulfill an organization’s founding mission and goals, as well as to ensure that the needy are served effectively and that funds are used responsibly.
Faith-based organizations in particular can benefit from using outcome-based evaluation to substantiate their success. Many of the innovative outreach programs of churches and faith groups are comparatively small when compared to the scale of conventional secular service projects. Yet, with the personal heartfelt commitment that is typical of faith-inspired service providers as well as their responsiveness to the individual needs and potential of recipients, faith-based initiatives often soar beyond conventional services in their impact on recipients’ lives. In fact, their very missions are often worded in qualitative terms of life transformation.
In street-smart language, Bob Cote, founder of Step 13—a Denver-based program that works with the largest and most complicated segment of the homeless: addicted street people—says the goal of his program is to “fix people, not just warehouse them.” “Our mission is to help these folks become responsible, productive community assets,” he explains. “We don’t want to just fill their stomachs. We want to fill their needs for employment, self-suficiency, and self esteem.”