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Why You Should Start Using Outcomes Today

According to Forrester Research, 6073% of data collected by businesses is never used for strategic purposes.1 I suspect that number is similar or higher for nonprofit organizations. When I worked at a nonprofit organization, we had enormous amounts of data to process. The most difficult data to understand and manage was program data.

This nonprofit I worked for held events, and after each event participants completed a (paper!) survey. The result was thousands of surveys to manually process each year. It was time-consuming to enter this data into a spreadsheet and analyze the information. This task was worth the time, if we used it to provide evidence of our success.

Measuring and communicating your organization’s impact is one of the most important things you do. The right program data proves to donors, and yourselves, that you are making a difference—but determining the right data is challenging. What data should you collect? What data is most important? What questions should you ask? Defining outcomes can help you answer all these questions. Understanding what outcomes are and how they help is the first step.
  • Outcomes help you measure what matters most. Outcomes are designed to measure results, not activities. An example of an activity measurement is pounds of food distributed. A related outcome measurement is the number of families that are now food secure. This result is more meaningful than the amount of food distributed
  • Outcomes focus on changes in the condition or behavior of participants or the community. In the entry above, the outcome measurement looks at what is different for families after receiving food. For your organization, think about how you would describe the participants (or community) after their interactions with your organization.
  • Outcomes help you track progress toward your goals. Most nonprofit organizations have a big and bold vision for the change they want to see in the world. This is fantastic, but it can also make identifying progress difficult. Outcomes break the overall goal into more measurable and manageable pieces, so you can see how your achievements move you closer to the goal.
Outcomes are not created overnight or by one person, but you can get started thinking about possible outcomes by joining us for our newest class, Nonprofit Workshop: Measuring Impact, where we’ll walk through the steps of identifying and measuring outcomes.

Posted by Susan Ross on Dec 5, 2017 12:26 PM America/New_York