If we’re honest, a lot of our objectives in the nonprofit world are difficult to measure. How are churches to measure the “return on investment” of efforts to promote discipleship and spiritual maturity? What metrics best capture the social benefits of a local performing arts organization – the number of people in attendance, revenue from ticket sales, or something else entirely? While no metric is perfect, governments, partners, volunteers, and donors often want to get a sense of the kind of impact you and your team are having on the community. Without sound program design or robust evaluation, you won’t have the data you need to make wise decisions, steward your resources well, or demonstrate to stakeholders you have the capacity to really move the needle on the problems facing your city.
Sometimes we believe that there’s no need to measure what we’re doing or accomplishing through our efforts. However, our desire to “help” without any feedback or thoughtful intentionality can deeply harm the long-term success (and dignity) of those we aspire to empower. To keep your organization accountable and ensure that the goods and services you provide are addressing the root problems, robust and comprehensive metrics must be designed and tracked. The resources below provide insight into the various approaches to program design, assessment, and evaluation so that you and your team can better pursue restoration.
If programs are not designed with the right amount of thought or care, a desire to help those in need may actually produce more harm than help. When designing new initiatives or reexamining old ones, nonprofit leaders must seek counsel from beneficiaries and community members, produce sound metrics specific to the problem at hand, and put the proper accountability structure in place so that long term success is achieved.
Without evaluation structures in place, you’ll never know if clients are being helped or your dollars are being spent wisely. Funders and volunteers alike often demand rigorous, robust analyses of the organizations they support when assessing where they invest their time and their resources – to provide the results needed to prove your model is actually moving the needle on poverty, homelessness, etc., you’ll need proven evaluation tools to collect and analyze data on your clients, costs, and impact.
Best practices, techniques, and approaches to program design and impact assessment are helpful, but they won’t help your organization better care for the poor and marginalized in your community if they cannot be translated into the context of your nonprofit and culture. The exercises below will help your team start to think through what kinds of metrics are most appropriate for your agency and how they can best be implemented going forward.