Community Wealth Partners works with clients to enhance organizational sustainability and growth for greater impact. One of the best ways to demonstrate impact is to measure both the performance and the outcomes of an organization. Here are some tips to improve measurement within your organization.
1. Quantify Your Mission Statement
Most mission statements reflect positive, but abstract, goals. Turn these abstract goals into specific, measurable targets. Organizations that quantify their mission statements have a better strategy to achieve their goals, because they are able to track their achievements.
2. Start with the Basics
Evaluating an organization can be a daunting task. Choose just three or four of the most important aspects to measure, and start with those. Once measurement becomes part of the organization’s DNA, it will be easy to develop additional aspects to measure. Initially, however, it works well to focus on a few key targets.
3. Measure with Precision
Use precise language and scope, so that what the numbers represent remains clear. Also, be sure to measure in a given time frame. One example might be to keep track of how many clients found your organization through referrals in the last six months.
4. Choose Measurement Tools
There are many different methods to effectively evaluate, including surveys, time tracking reports, policy changes, and so forth. The Foundation Center offers some excellent examples of measurement tools here.
5. Diversify Your Measurements
A smooth-running machine relies on many different cogs working in concert. Similarly, a successful organization relies on many factors to run well. Make sure that you measure these different factors, such as employee satisfaction, client improvement, funding increases, etc.
6. Collect Data Regularly
Resolve to measure at specific intervals—perhaps every 6 weeks, quarter, and year—and follow that plan. Without carefully planning ahead, it is easy to push measurements aside and work on projects that seem more urgent. Consistent measurement may seem tedious, but it will strengthen your organization. Therefore, it pays to be diligent in data collection.
7. If Your Strategy Changes, Reshape Evaluation
Sometimes an organization finds it best to change its strategies in order to better achieve its mission. When this happens, make sure to update evaluation tactics quickly to follow the change.
8. Base Benchmarks on External Indicators
Use data from other nonprofits in the same field, perhaps even your competitors, for comparison and to set benchmarks for your organization. Often we see our strengths and weaknesses more clearly when we look outward to see the performance and outcomes of others.
9. Use Data to Identify Areas for Improvement
Often we get results and sit on them. However, data are useful only as tools for action and improvement. When used well to spur improvement, data can motivate staff and stakeholders to a higher plane of participation.
10. Communicate Performance to Stakeholders
You must share quantitative improvements with stakeholders. Nonprofits are no longer able to compete for funding using only qualitative anecdotes and relationships. Funders are seeking a visible return on their investments in grantees.
These simple tips will improve sustainability and allow for more strategic growth. Most importantly, effective measurement will help track and improve your impact.