Today’s DonorDreams post is from a guest blogger, Rose Reinert. Rose is a young non-profit professional who happily serves in the trenches and grapples with our sector’s newest challenges as they relate to data, impact, and program outcomes. When it comes to data systems, she has experience with membership management databases, financial management software, donor databases, and program outcomes measurement systems.
Outcome measurement madness
By Rose Reinert
In a former life, I served as an Executive Director of a youth serving organization. As you can imagine, as in any non-profit, the heat was on illustrating short-term and long-term impact. These efforts, of course, were to show that we were fulfilling our mission of preparing young people to be contributing citizens. Unfortunately, more often than not, we focused on short-term impact in order to keep funders and donors engaged and happy so they would renew their investment.
One of those funders, who I would work at keeping happy with their investment of money and time, was my board of directors. I used to love packing my board book with tons of statistics “showing” our hard work. I would use pretty graphs and pie charts, comparisons from the previous year, week, minute.
I was so proud of those thick board packets!
Now, the tables have turned and I serve on a board of directors for another area non-profit. In a recent board meeting, as I was overwhelmed with pages of statistics I sat thinking, “So what! What does this all mean?”
Oh the irony!
When I was leading my organization, we used to measure anything that moved. We were swimming in pre- and post-tests. By the time we closed out one session, we were at it again with pre-testing.
There were days, amongst the insanity, where I would have moments of clarity. I realized how many opportunities had been lost. We were caught up in the “Outcome Measurement madness“. We lost opportunities to truly, without defense, use the data to assess how we were doing and if we were moving the needle.
What would happen if we got off the hamster wheel and took a step back? What questions could we ask about our outcome measurement strategy?
One great tool that I found to help re-frame and create a strategy is a publication titled “Intermediary Development Series: Measuring Outcomes” at DareMightyThings.com.
- Where should we focus?
- What do we want to accomplish?
- Who is on the team, and how do we involve others in organization?
- What resources will you need?
- Do we need additional help?
- What is our timeline?
Taking a step back to reframe, or create a strategy to ensure that we are measuring what matters is critical. There is no escape from outcome measurement, and there shouldn’t be. Data is critical; it guides decisions, informs investors, and points out areas for improvement. However, you can measure a lot and still have no clue.
How have you found clarity in the outcome measurement madness? How does your organization involve all levels in developing the strategy and executing it? How do you share your data with stakeholders? Please share your experiences in the comment box below.