The Limits of Nonprofit Impact: A Contingency Framework for Measuring Social Performance

Posted: 19 May 2010 Last revised: 27 Oct 2010

See all articles by Alnoor S. Ebrahim

Alnoor S. Ebrahim

Tufts University

V. Kasturi Rangan

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit

Date Written: May 19, 2010

Abstract

Leaders of organizations in the social sector are under growing pressure to demonstrate their impacts on pressing societal problems such as global poverty. We review the debates around performance and impact, drawing on three literatures: strategic philanthropy, nonprofit management, and international development. We then develop a contingency framework for measuring results, suggesting that some organizations should measure long-term impacts, while others should focus on shorter-term outputs and outcomes. In closing, we discuss the implications of our analysis for future research on performance management.

Keywords: performance measurement, impact, nonprofit management, social enterprise, philanthropy, accountability, management control systems

Suggested Citation

Ebrahim, Alnoor S. and Rangan, V. Kasturi, The Limits of Nonprofit Impact: A Contingency Framework for Measuring Social Performance (May 19, 2010). Harvard Business School General Management Unit Working Paper No. 10-099; Harvard Business School Marketing Unit Working Paper No. 10-099. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1611810 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1611810

Alnoor S. Ebrahim (Contact Author)

Tufts University ( email )

160 Packard Avenue
Medford, MA 02155
United States

V. Kasturi Rangan

Harvard Business School - Marketing Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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