Dr. Lester M. Salamon passed in August of 2021. He was the head of the Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He and his team annually produced employment and economic impact data about the nonprofit sector. 

Salamon’s legacy will live on, as the Center will continue to produce these studies. But Salamon should be seen as a pioneer in this field. His commitment to the collection of comprehensive nonprofit sector data was well received and definitely appreciated since this data is typically hard to gather and tracked in inconsistent and disparate ways. Definitely not apples to apples.  

It is widely known that the US government can say, to the number, how many lettuce heads were planted in a year, but cannot tell you as easily how many people are employed by nonprofit organizations.

His reports often revealed gems of insights about our sector, as highlighted in the two charts below, that in periods of great instability, the nonprofit sector is very resilient and can be a very reliable partner, as has been the case in the current pandemic.

There are solid local resources that also exist as a complement to Salamon’s contributions. 

The Hawaiʻi Professional Evaluator’s Association out of the University of Hawaiʻi is a great resource to better understand evaluation methodologies for our work. The organization is membership based, and they welcome interested parties who are not professional evaluators to join them. They have a quality conference every year featuring very talented evaluators from across the globe.

Dr. Sena Sanjines of S2D is one such evaluator who has collaborated with HANO and our partner Hawaiʻi Investment Ready to put out two sector studies through the pandemic. 2021 Hawaiʻi Sector Pulse Study Summary Report

Dr Stephanie Evergreen is another such resource. A couple years back, Dr. Evergreen produced a helpful mind bending series for us on data visualization that forever changed the way that I will look at a bar graph. 

Also mind bending is the plethora of data you can find through the Hawaii Data Collaborative which works to build data capacity, improve data accessibility and help frame the Hawaiʻi data landscape. Amongst many helpful tools, is their policy map with customizable maps and downloadable specific data sets. The Hawaii Data Collaborative is able to offer this platform open source for another year, so I encourage you to take advantage. 

The resources are plentiful. Let’s all get better at incorporating data into our storytelling of our impact. Our sector deserves the acknowledgement, and Lester Salamon would be proud.

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