Urban Institute researchers evaluate federal, state, and local government programs and policies. Early on, we pioneered performance-management techniques government agencies still use to evaluate and improve public services, from economic development to garbage collection. And now we're adapting those strategies for the nonprofit sector—at home and abroad. Read more.
Behavioral economics, which analyzes how behavior sometimes departs from the rational calculation of self-interest, can help Medicaid programs use targeted enrollment strategies more effectively by eliminating apparently modest procedural requirements, which can greatly reduce participation levels. It can also help health coverage applicants receive SNAP, even though demonstrating eligibility for health subsidies and choosing a health plan can tax many consumers' cognitive resources, making it hard to process information about SNAP. For example, health applicants could be given the option to have the state's food agency contact them later to complete a SNAP application by phone.
Human services programs can benefit from 90 percent federal funding for information technology investments that are complete by the end of 2015 and that: 1) build a service that helps both Medicaid and human services; or 2) build an interface that helps Medicaid use human services records to verify eligibility or "fast track" enrollment. Once the Affordable Care Act is fully phased in, Medicaid will be the country's most widely-used need-based program. Human services programs can use Medicaid records to streamline eligibility determination, despite limits on information sharing and differences between Medicaid and human services program rules, including household definitions.
This report provides a snapshot of nonprofit governance policies and practices among operating public charities. Using IRS Form 990 data, we find that many public charities have good governance policies and practices in place. In 2010, more than 60 percent of organizations had a conflict of interest policy, an independent audit and a compensation review and approval process for their chief executive. We also find that organizational characteristics such as size, type of organization, government funding, age, board size and board independence all appear related to whether or not a public charity chooses to adopt these recommended practices.
The Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance—Jacob France Institute (BNIA-JFI) housed at the University of Baltimore is a key player in Baltimore’s open data community. BNIA-JFI connects the city government, civil society, and the tech community through hackathons and other events to create products like baltimorevacants.org, an online mapping tool that pinpoints vacant buildings and links them to neighborhood-level demographic indicators. The increasing number of people and organizations who want BNIA-JFI to provide open data solidifies BNIA-JFI’s role in the conversation on data-driven decisionmaking for neighborhoods.
Despite the importance of performance measurement to nonprofit effectiveness, the state of performance measurement among nonprofits varies widely, and resources to improve capacity are scarce. While learning communities are available to other professionals, very few networks exist for staff focused on performance measurement and evaluation. It’s often described as an isolating position, and staff just getting started in this field are eager for support and advice. We spoke with three nonprofit performance measurement staff who have been navigating their positions within the Washington DC, area for several years, to share lessons learned and tips for getting started and growing.