Whether you are reporting your impact to investors or to your organization’s board of directors, these three tips can help you report your impact properly in order to show exactly how each program or initiative you put into action benefits the community.
#1. Move Beyond the Mission Statement
Often, when we ask agencies what the goals of their organization are, we get back some version of their mission statement. They want to end hunger, ensure all children have access to positive role models, create a sustainable community for our seniors. To measure impact, you must let go of the mission statement and focus on what tangible things your organization creates with its program. Do clients leave happy not just because they received medical attention but because they also spoke to someone who cared and listened? Is there a way to quantify that happiness? It may sound impossible, but if happiness or relief is something your service provides, you should attempt to capture it. Quantifying impact may sound insensitive, but it is the only way your investors will know exactly how much you impact your clients.
Let the mission statement lead and inspire your organization. Let documented, measurable events lead your impact measurement.
#2. Take It One Program at a Time
No agency can measure all efforts of the entire agency. Measuring impact for different programs, initiatives, or campaigns need to be tackled separately. This is because the goals, language, and ultimately impact measures, can look very different from program to program. And very often, a program that appears to have one goal really has the potential to have many.
A feeding program may just aim to fill the bellies of the clients served. But you might ask…”How else is this program serving clients?”
Dinner served to homeless clients once a week could turn into multiple initiatives that each contain their own impact on different groups:
Taking one program, like a feeding program above, and uncovering the many measurable outcomes impacting your clients across various pieces of the same program, especially those efforts that affect clients beyond the night of the free dinner are what investors want to see. Most investors know it is a challenge to “prove” impact, but most investors will be impressed to see that you are attempting to move beyond simply measuring outputs to show the impact you truly make.
What one program or effort does your organization have that may be impacting clients across more domains that you currently measure?
#3. (Now, You’re Ready To…) Create Measurable Goals
You have likely already heard that to measure outcomes you need to first create “measurable goals”. But creating measurable goals is deceptively difficult. Program goals, for most organizations, are living, breathing, and ever-changing; not to mention that quantifying the work you do with your clients may seem impossible, or at the very least impersonal.
To begin creating measurable goals, ask yourself these two questions:
- (For each program or initiative, I identified in Step #2), What is it I am trying to achieve when working with a client?
- Then ask, which of these things could I measure?
Allow yourself to dream big in Question #1. Beyond feeding the hungry, providing a child with a mentor, or treating a sick client, what do I hope for these clients? What larger goal is my service contributing to? These not need be eloquent ideas. Let this be a stream of thought.
Using your ideas Question #1, narrow down in Question #2 and ask yourself…
Now, which of these things could I measure? Get your highlighter out or find some creative way to identify all the things from your big dreaming above that you could possibly measure. Don’t worry about how yet, or if it’s possible, just ask yourself, is it possible. If you think it might be, highlight it, circle it, and test it!
Now you try. Ask yourself, what is your goal? If you say, to feed hungry people, go further.
In this example, the limitations of time and funding mean you cannot work with every client at every dinner each week to get them connected to the County Health Clinic. But working to get one or two individuals connected each month is certainly better than zero. Investors know you must work within your means, but your effort to show impact beyond an immediate service will catch their attention and no doubt impress them.
Break out your agencies’ different programs and goals then ask, what do each of these programs or initiatives actually do for clients now and in the future? As long as you are honest with yourself about both the strengths and shortcomings of your programs, you will be able to more easily create impact measurements.
Don’t hesitate to contact us with questions about measuring your organization’s impact. We believe strongly in the work of local nonprofit agencies and never turn down an opportunity to assist agencies with the challenge of measuring impact.