by Ellen Stone
One of the most important questions for a nonprofit to be able to answer well is, “What is the impact of your organization?” The question comes from donors, funders, and community partners. While stories about individual clients served may tug at the heartstrings, most organizations are finding that individual stories are no longer sufficient to generate dollars. The stories must be tied to a larger picture of impact through data that shows your nonprofit is actually achieving its mission. But how do you gather the data that demonstrates your organization is having a meaningful impact in your community?
These four questions will define commonly mixed-up terms in nonprofit data gathering and help you determine the best outcome measures to tell your organization’s story.
The vision of Dream Builders Mission in the Sulfur Springs neighborhood of Tampa is to equip all members of their community living in poverty to attain self-dignity, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, and to transition back to mainstream society. The organization tracks statistics at a regional and neighborhood level related to homelessness, risk of homelessness, per capita income, car ownership, and people living in motels to determine their impact on the Sulfur Springs neighborhood.
This is the number of houses built, students taught, clothes distributed, people fed, pounds of food distributed, people placed in employment, trauma victims counseled, mothers and babies sheltered, etc. This number tells the quantity of services provided, but it does not tell donors or funders anything about the quality of services.
This is the quality measurement for your outputs. For example:
Outcomes data should be measurable and observable. The best outcomes data includes tracking beyond the end of a client’s involvement with a nonprofit organization. This data comes from client surveys sent at designated intervals after completing/exiting the program or collaborating organization surveys conducted at regular intervals.
Now that you have defined the difference between units of service and impacts, set goals for both categories. If your organization’s fiscal year runs from January to December, this is the perfect time to set your goals for the next fiscal year and make a plan to gather data throughout the year. Do you want to increase the number of people served in a program? Do you want to target people from a specific demographic that has been underserved by your organization? Is there an outcome you can improve with a concerted effort across your organization? Make a plan now for how your organization will reach the target in 2019. Keep in mind, the best goals are SMART:
Examples of SMART organization goals for 2019 include:
Nonprofit organizations need data about the quality of their programs to make their case to funders in grant applications and to donors on their website, and they need data to back up their stories about impact and statements of need. If you have questions about how to develop strong outcome measures for your organization, the Pathways to Growth team would love to help! Contact us.