Michelle Murrain made a great observation on the Convio/ Get Active merger:
In the final analysis, in the days, weeks, months and years following these, and other mergers, no fewer people will be homeless, no fewer women will be battered, no fewer children will be hungry, no less environmental damage will be done, no more people who need it will get mental health services. But a few more people will have a lot more money in their bank accounts. And this, I think, is one really important thing to think hard about. Are the means that progressive organizations use to reach their ends truly in line with their mission?And this goes back to the hub-bub over whether the Gates Foundation should consider it's mission when investing its 60 billion dollars. Interestingly enough, 96.9% of those voting in Lucy Bernholz's poll would be considered naive by the CEO and COO of the Gates Foundation... they think the mission should impact the investment strategy (to be fair, I am not entirely clear that the Foundation's position is anything other than "let this blow over").
We generally believe that the business of doing good is just like the business of supplying mercenaries to Africa... the companies use the same financial tools (Cash Flow, Balance Sheets, etc.). And these tools' strength is their value-neutrality. ROI, stock price appreciation, profit are all really efficient ways to run an economy because they make no commentary on the actual activity.
In the end, a financial transaction in the social sector should be measured by how many fewer people are homeless. The new breed of social enterprises in the nonprofit technology sector... Democracy in Action being the first clear success and leader of the pack... hopefully will measure themselves in those terms as we move forward.