Next Generation Contracting: A Contract Reform Agenda for Funders and Nonprofits

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FPSI produces occasional papers on subjects related to accountability in general and Results-­‐Based Accountability TM (RBA) in particular. This paper responds to requests over the years for ideas about how RBA can be applied to the methods by which government agencies and private philanthropies write agreements with those to whom they give money (referred to here as contractors or grantees).

Following are 10 provisions that I believe should be in contracts of the future.

Provision 1. Specify the 3 to 5 most important performance measures (from the How well did we do it? and Is anyone better off? categories).

Contracts of the future should specify the top measures to be used in performance reporting and continuous improvement. These should be taken from the How well did we do it? and Is anyone better off? categories. The choice of measures should be negotiated between the funder and the contractor/grantee.

Provision 2. Specify that the contractor will use a continuous improvement process (the RBA 7 Questions).

The contract should specify that the contractor will use some form of continuous improvement process. The RBA 7 Performance Accountability questions are a good choice for this purpose, but if you have something you like better that’s OK. Continuous improvement should be used at (or phased in to) every level of the organization.

Provision 3. Specify how the funder and contractor will work in partnership to maximize Is anyone better off? customer results.

Right now the relationship between funders and grantees is often a feudal relationship: overlord and serf. Funders can sit back and watch their grantees struggle and it’s not their problem. We need to create a more co-­‐equal relationship between funders and grantees, so that they work in partnership to produce the best possible results for their customers. Contracts should specify how this partnership will work, possible through meetings two, three or four times a year using the 7 Performance Accountability questions as the agenda. At these meetings, funders must be willing to take on tasks to help the contractor/grantee improve.

Provision 4. Specify that the funder will work with the rest of the funding community to simplify and standardize contracting and performance reporting.

If you run a nonprofit anywhere in the world, you are probably receiving funding from 10 or more funders all with different grant application and performance reporting requirements. You spend all your time running around meeting all these separate requirements and don’t have time left to do your real job of running the agency. I believe funders have an obligation to get their act together. And this means standardizing application, contracting and reporting requirements. Funders should commit in writing, in the contract, to working with other funders toward this end.

Simplification of performance reporting should make use of one page reports. These should include the name and brief description of the program or project and its contribution to population quality of life, the presentation of the three to five most important performance measures in baseline form, the story behind those baselines (including accomplishments), partners with a role to play and the action plan to get better. Attached to each report should be a story about a customer who is better off.

Provision 5. Clear articulation of role of the contractor/grantee in population/community well-­being using the language of contribution and not attribution.

Contracts of the future should explain the role that the contractor’s services play in population/community quality of life. Contracts should use the language of contribution, not attribution or proof of impact.

Provision 6. 10% for quality management and administration.

Many contracts with nonprofits contracts provide money for services only and nothing for administration. We have been steadily degrading the infrastructure of the nonprofit community for the past 30 years or more. If we are going to rebuild this essential capacity, we must begin providing set-­‐asides for this purpose in all contracts. 10% is a placeholder. The actual amount may be more or less depending on the size and type of the contract.

Read the complete PDF here.

Mark FriedmanNext Generation Contracting: A Contract Reform Agenda for Funders and Nonprofits

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