Measuring the Work of Intermediaries in the St. Louis Region is a new report released by the Gateway Center for Giving (the Center) encouraging funders and intermediaries to think about intermediary nonprofit organizations and their outcomes differently as well as explain how these two groups can partner successfully to create change. The Center worked over the course of eight months with its funding partners, a steering committee, and a group of key stakeholders to develop this guide and engaged in conversations with over 35 individuals from funding and intermediary organizations in an attempt to understand how these two groups can better communicate with one another and understand each other’s needs.
What is an intermediary? An intermediary exists between organizations that have resources and the organizations that need resources. Local intermediaries are a means of efficiently and effectively connecting and delivering a range of support services for the nonprofit community. Typically local intermediary organizations engage in one or more of the following tasks:
- Engaging, convening, and supporting service providing constituencies;
- Promoting quality standards and accountability;
- Brokering and leveraging resources (including fiscal responsibilities);
- Promoting advocacy for effective policies.
Why was this report created? In early 2011, the Gateway Center for Giving with funding from the Missouri Foundation for Health set out to create an initial report that illustrated the number, type, and benefit of intermediaries in the St. Louis community. This first report – Understanding the Intermediary Infrastructure in St. Louis– was developed with the help of an intern and a steering committee composed of representatives from the Deaconess Foundation, the Whitaker Foundation, and the Maternal, Child and Family Health Coalition. The findings were presented to the funding community to help them better understand the intermediary infrastructure in St. Louis. Funders were intrigued by the role and overall contribution intermediaries play in the community but noted that assessing and measuring the outcomes of intermediary nonprofit organizations continues to pose a significant challenge.
The former Executive Director of the St. Louis Mental Health Board Don Cuvo noted, “It is difficult for funders to incorporate the idea of funding the operations of an intermediary, primarily because its key functions of convening, promoting standards, brokering resources and promoting effective policies often falls outside the vision which the funder has for use of its resources. A new way to think about the relationship between an intermediary and a funder may be as partners (or consultants or even vendors), whereby the intermediary helps the funder achieve its goals by extending its reach.” This guide offers tips on how funders and intermediaries can address some of the common struggles these two groups often encounter when trying to work with one another.
How is this report meant to be used? This is intended to be used as a practical guide for intermediaries and funders.
- Intermediaries may use this guide to better understand the key elements required to develop an outcome measurement plan and more accurately measure outcomes as well as define realistic program outcomes. Intermediaries hope that funders will use this report to better understand the struggles related to trying to measure short-term impacts on long-term systems.
- Funders may use this guide to understand whether the outcomes that intermediaries are proposing are realistic and how those outcomes should be evaluated. Funders hope that intermediaries will use this report to help them describe community impact in a way that is easily understood by funders.
Additional information the Center’s work related to intermediaries including links to two reports can be found on our website at www.centerforgiving.org. Questions about this report can be directed to Lindsey Linzer (314-621-6220 or Lindsey@centerforgiving.org).
This project was funded by the Missouri Foundation for Health and the Incarnate Word Foundation. The Gateway Center for Giving would like to thank the following organizations for being a part of the committee that spent countless hours working on this report: Deaconess Foundation; Incarnate Word Foundation ∙ Maternal, Child and Family Health Coalition ∙ Missouri Foundation for Health ∙ Nonprofit Services Center ∙ St. Louis Mental Health Board ∙ University of Missouri- St. Louis ∙ Vision for Children at Risk ∙ Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts ∙ Whitaker Foundation.