By: Sue Tobias, Guest Contributor and Founder, Melrose Street Research & Strategy
I admit the subjects of data and impact fascinate me. There is a great democracy to measurement. It’s needed by Fortune 100 companies as well as start-up nonprofits. Whether you are a company or a nonprofit, greater measurement of your philanthropic programs has evolved.
Measurement was once an afterthought – a well-meaning, aspirational task on an annual plan. No longer, it has now become a must-have. An absolute necessity in order to clearly demonstrate programmatic effectiveness, fiscal accountability and deliver compelling messages through persuasive data points.
Although there is universal need, there is not a general understanding of the how. Where to start? Deep breaths.
Get started with these three core principles:
1) Ensure a mix of outputs and outcomes. Outputs are activities we engage in (volunteer hours, number of meals served) and are typically much easier to capture. The drawback with activity-based reporting is it shows the quantity of activity but not the actual sustained benefit or impact. Outcomes demonstrate the real change in status, condition or behavior that has been produced – the long-term impact.
2) Prioritize. When you are determining what to measure prioritization matters. Repeat after me, “You cannot measure everything.” Deal with it! Focus on the key priorities of your organization. Those priorities for nonprofits are the promises that are central to your reason for being. Your mission statement, strategic plan and social purpose will help you determine what to measure. Corporations with a broad funding portfolio should prioritize large, strategic investments. Don’t waste resources measuring legacy investments associated with the founder or brand. It is likely these will be funded regardless of success metrics.
3) Socialize Internally. Clarity and consensus among key stakeholders within your organization is crucial to make it possible to identify and agree on what success looks like. Creating an internal task force to gather senior leadership input, define specific objectives, outcomes and metrics is the most effective and efficient way to achieve internal alignment. Be sure to share these metrics and goals with key external partners—corporate funders, community partners and board members to gain their input and set expectations.
Congratulations! You are now armed with meaningful metrics that demonstrate measurable progress on outcomes. The results will resonate with your board, donors and funders. You will be able to show the real change your programs are creating and make fact-based decisions on how to most effectively allocate limited resources to create the greatest impact. Even if you don’t love statistics the way I do, measure what matters and share your success!