Narratives of performance measurement in philanthropic foundations
Williamson, Alexandra; Leat, Diana; Scaife, Wendy (2017)

Philanthropic foundations with a permanent endowment are among the few organisations that have no requirement to measure and prove their performance to ensure sustainability. This article begins by outlining the puzzle of performance measurement in endowed foundations and then briefly
reviews the literature. Findings from an exploratory study of Australian foundations’ approaches to measurement are presented. We suggest that beneath the broad adoption of the language of measurement there is a more complex story. There were three broad narratives in relation to measurement, which we label resistance, qualification and realism. These three narratives explain differences in levels of commitment and practice, and go some way towards understanding foundations’ ambiguous relationship with performance measurement, as illustrated in this study and the wider literature.

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