Monday, March 02, 2009

phone conversation of the day: or, why not to go into non profits if your patience level is whisper-thin

Ding, calling State Assault Organization : Hi, I’m working on a proposal and I’m looking for our state’s plan or report to address sexual assault in IL.
Bureaucrat: Uh…
Ding: And it would also be great if you could tell me if the report on your website is the most recent and, if there is a newer one, when that’ll be up on your site or if you could email it to me.
Bureaucrat: New report…
Ding: Yeah. I’m writing this proposal and they require updated, current numbers about rape in Illinois.
Bureaucrat: Well, that’s the most recent one we have.
Ding: But all the stuff in it is from 2006. It’s 2009.
Bureaucrat: Well, we have other reports from other federal sources…
Ding: But those are all from 2003.
Bureaucrat: Yeah, they are.

(a beat)

Ding: Ok. Well, when can we have some updated numbers, at least on your agency report?
Bureaucrat: You know, I don’t think there are plans to update those numbers.
Ding: But they’re from 2006. You’re going to leave them up, like, forever??
Bureaucrat: Well, to be honest, you’re the first person to ever ask for it.
Ding: You are kidding me. (sputter sputter) I am the only person from a coalition agency to EVER request that our state statistics on violence against women be updated and publicly available on your website? EVER?
Bureaucrat: I’ve been communications director here a long time and, yeah. This is the longest conversation I’ve ever had about this.
Ding: Bureaucrat, you’ve shocked me. I’m speechless. And, yet, this explains so much.
So NO ONE in the whole state has ever expressed a desire to have Illinois-specific information collected in one spot to be updated on a regular basis??
Bureaucrat: Not that I can recall. Everyone just calls for the number of reported assaults in the state.
Ding: But that one number doesn’t tell you anything.
Bureaucrat: It tells you the number of reported assaults.
Ding: Which doesn’t tell me anything. It doesn’t tell me anything about trends, reasons why the number is what it is, who created the number or anything like that.
Bureaucrat: Well, no.
Ding: Ok, what happens to the report the state has to file justifying its receipt of federal assault money? Is that report ever made public?
Bureaucrat: I assume so.
Ding: Bureaucrat, you are going to give me a heart attack.
Bureaucrat: No one has ever asked this!
Ding: Theoretically, when would your agency consider updating the report that I’m looking at right now?
Bureaucrat: Maybe…2011.
Ding: So, to get 2008 numbers I’d have to get into my time machine, travel two years into the future and then maybe I’d see the report that I need for today.
Bureaucrat: Yes.
Ding: Heart attack, Bureaucrat. You are giving me a heart attack.

No wonder my sector is in the crapper if this is how it handles metrics.

I can understand how the lifecycle of creating such a report could take a couple years, but the fact that no one has ever asked for such a report boggles my mind. Not to ask the question?? At all??



Tameshia said...

Sounds like attempts to get data for the field I work in my state. I've come to understand states really aren't in the data collection business. The only numbers they care about are dollars and cents. Which is sad, because if they had actual data they could use their money much more efficiently and possibly get even more.

ding said...

I agree.

I can understand that it costs money to conduct studies but that's why you're supposed to build oversight/measurement into your budget - so you can fund your metrics. Makes sense, right?

Organizations like mine have to produce annual data to satisfy our donors (both public and private sources of funding). Without the measurement we can't make the case that what we're doing is making an impact or that we're good stewards of someone else's cash.

But since I live in a state with a $9 billion (and counting) deficit, maybe asking for standard measurements is too much.