Third-party evaluation of NGO projects in China still lacking in professionalism

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Since the announcement of the “Suggestions for the Third-Party Evaluation of Social Organizations (关于探索建立社会组织第三方评估机制的指导意见)” in May 2015, organizations and companies have been set up to carry out third-party evaluations for NGOs. According to the Report on Charitable Projects Evaluation published by the Philanthropy and NGO Support Center in late 2017, the number of such organizations has grown by 22% from 2014 to 2017. This means that much third-party evaluation work has been transferred from the Ministry of Civil Affairs to these “professional” evaluators.

The Philanthropy and NGO Support Center has been supporting the development of third-party evaluations of NGO projects since 2013. Researchers at the center found that the evaluation institutes did not have uniform standards across the sector, and the evaluation reports were often excessively descriptive rather than analytical. Zheng Guosheng, an expert at the center, pointed out that the sector is still lacking talents. The institutes which know about NGOs lack the expertise to perform evaluation work; while the organizations which are professional about evaluations know very little about NGOs. In an analysis published last year (中国社会组织评估:十年的进展与挑战), Zheng pointed out that the evaluators are often too young and inexperienced to do their jobs. When talking to experienced NGO leaders to make evaluations, they feel incompetent and tend to give higher marks to these NGOs. As a result, 90% of social organizations are marked as 4A or above, and 40-50% are ranked as 5A. Therefore the NGOs do not usually get useful guidance from their evaluation work, and obviously wrong advice is sometimes received.

In order to improve the quality of NGO project evaluations, the Evaluation Support Platform for Philanthropy was launched in April 2018 by the Philanthropy and NGO Support Center, the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation and others. Companies such as SGS, PWC, and Deloitte are also among the founding organizations. It is hoped that these companies can help upgrade the sector.