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David Henderson
David Henderson is the founder of Idealistics Inc., where he helps social sector organizations help people better.

Goodbye Idealistics

I co-founded Idealistics in 2005. Eight years is a long time. This is not easy to write, but I have decided to move on from Idealistics. My interests and skills have evolved over the last eight years, as has the social sector. Data is the belle of the social sector ball, but as a philanthropic [...]

Automated grant making

Top executives in large corporations tend to be busy, and don’t have time to make every decision themselves. A technique used by management consultants to help organizations make decisions consistent with those of their top executives without necessarily having to involve those executives in every decision is to model an executive’s values and risk tolerances. [...]

Why your 100% success rate does not impress

I have recently noticed a growing number of organizations including “impact” pages on their websites. These impact pages generally include some charts and data on an organization’s supposed impact. In the spirit of openness and a sector that is moving toward managing to outcomes, I’m glad to see organizations putting their data out there for [...]

Money and metrics – Google Hangout on using performance data to raise funds

Idealistics is not a marketing or fundraising firm. I try to make this point as clear as possible to all of my potential customers before entering into any engagement. However, I whole heartedly believe that improving social outcomes should lead to better fundraising prospects. But do funders and donors really invest in social outcomes? Next [...]

Why comparing your outcomes to community averages might be misleading

I followed a Chronicle of Philanthropy chat titled How to Show Donors Your Programs Are Working earlier this week. While it is encouraging that the social sector is trying to incorporate metrics in our work, data’s rise to mind share prominence has also seen the rise of some fairly dubious advice. One piece of advice [...]

Data does not make decisions

I participated in my first Google Hangout last Friday on the topic of using data in homeless services. The discussion was organized by Mark Horvath, a homeless advocate and founder of Invisible People. The call included Mark, myself, and three other practitioners with experience applying metrics in homeless services. You can check out the recording [...]

Jargon, terminology, and the sorry state of nonprofit consulting

I have a pretty low opinion of nonprofit consultants. Most days I use the sorry state of nonprofit consulting as a rallying cry to be a better consultant myself, but every now and then I wonder whether I wouldn’t be better off working in a social sector organization, rather than trying to shout above the [...]

Service rationing and strategic queuing

People hate standing in line, and just about everyone in the social sector loathes having to decide who should receive a particular intervention and who should not. But service rationing and queuing are facts of life, and taking a sophisticated approach to how we prioritize services can make a substantial difference in a program’s net [...]

Customer service as a social intervention

With every organization I work with, I begin the consulting engagement by developing an impact theory. The impact theory is the portion of the theory of change that identifies the causal assumptions of how a set of social interventions is expected to drive particulars social outcomes. The impact theory is important because it sets the [...]

Data as hero

The hype over data has become deafening. Small non-profits are obsessed with leveraging big data, and foundations are on the hunt to find the one evaluative metric to rule them all. We need to take a breath. Data offers some exciting opportunities in our sector. Predictive algorithms are really good at helping figure out [...]