Excellence framework

What is Just Cause’s Excellence Framework?
The Excellence Framework is the tool that we use to evaluate charities so that we can provide an objective view on their quality and impact.

What does the Excellence Framework look like?
It is a list of 12 domains covering areas like governance, management characteristics and results. For each domain, we have a simple set of criteria to pinpoint our definition of “what good looks like”.

How did we design the Excellence Framework?
Our framework is based on an extensive mapping of existing quality and impact assessment tools in both the non-profit and private sectors globally. In 2015 we developed and tested it with wide ranging input from sector experts in Singapore, including testing it with a group of local charities.

What are the 12 domains and how did we choose them?
The basic aim of the Framework is to pinpoint the value-for-money or cost-benefit of a non-profit organisation. In the same way that profitability is a measure used in the private sector to indicate the strength of a company, our Framework seeks to produce an objective measure of performance for the non-profit sector.

In this context, our Framework specifically addresses two main measurement challenges:

  • It is often extremely difficult to get an accurate measure of the social impact created by a single organisation;
  • It is even harder to predict an organisation’s future social impact because the nature of social change is inherently complex.

The Excellence Framework addresses the first challenge (measuring current social impact) by triangulating a number of different data points – where the cumulative results are arguably much more robust than any one measure alone. The data points that we include are breadth, depth and attribution of the organisation’s impact, together with three measures of stakeholder feedback.

The second challenge (predicting future social impact) is addressed by looking at the behaviour of the charity. In other words, we are looking for certain values and attributes of how the organisation is run that generally point towards high impact. Because social change happens in complex and unpredictable ways, we believe that the charities that will succeed the most are those that have the ability to constantly adapt to and learn from their experiences and surroundings. Therefore the attributes that we look for include:

  • A focus on continuous learning;
  • A desire to innovate and plan for future change; and
  • An open approach to working with others and acknowledging that change can be better achieved by working together.

Overall there are 12 domains or aspects of a charity that we evaluate. The domains fall into three sections as pictured below:

Just Cause Excellence Framework: summary

framework image


What about other definitions of excellence?
Every non-profit and donor will have their own priorities and perspectives on what “good” should look like. There are some basic standards of quality (such as sound financial management) that all good organisations should meet; but there are other aspects that are a matter of individual preference. For example, one organisation may strongly value the ethos of volunteerism, another may aim for business-like professionalism.

Just Cause’s framework does not claim to provide the definitive voice on which are the “best” non-profits, but rather we look for organisations that align with our own set of values and priorities. In our case, “good” non-profits are those that score highly in the 12 domains identified above.

Can you tell me more about the Excellence Framework?
If you would like to learn more, please contact us.