Posts Tagged by measurement
|October 8, 2012||Posted by M. P. under Evaluation, Management, Philanthropy||
Regardless of the outcome of the upcoming election, the nonprofit social services sector – from mental health clinics to food banks – will still be challenged to meet an increased need with fewer resources and limited funding. Savvy nonprofits have already moved toward an evaluation culture, embracing logic models and short-and-long term impact data to illustrate why (and how) their programs work. Organizational innovation and unique program accomplishments are practically prerequisites for making a successful connection with alternate funding sources, including corporate partnerships, yet nonprofits are still struggling to identify and quantify their impact on clients, the community, and the overall condition they work to modify. Performance measurement, logic model and outcomes are not new or faddish terms, so why the hesitation?
The report, Tough Times, Creative Measures: What Will it Take to Help the Social Sector Embrace an Outcomes Culture? from the Urban Institute, came out of a Fall 2011 event that brought together leaders from the government, nonprofit, philanthropy, and business sectors to discuss the issue of data-driven management in social and human services and the challenges related to successfully utilizing a performance management system. Some of the challenges identified:
The difficulty of turning away from the organization’s immediate needs to plan and implement a measurement system. No matter how small the agency, the demands on the executive director’s time and talent are immense. Writing up an organization-wide evaluation strategy and implementation plan, including models, indicators, instruments, and data collection plans is an enormous amount of work – and I haven’t mentioned the pilot testing, analysis and reporting aspects. The role of director should be to communicate progress and needs with the board as they guide the agency through this kind of culture change, not create every step of the process.
The reality that sometimes the best outcomes may not be rewarded. Conspiracy theories and snarky excuses aside, well-crafted stories, high profile connections and nonprofits with missions or target audiences that are more interesting or appealing than your own may have an easier time selling their effectiveness. That said, incomplete or inaccurate information on program impact won’t help remedy the situation.
Some nonprofits may be waiting for the trends to flip and the tides to turn. Why move heaven and earth within your organization to embrace a culture that may seem like a phase (especially to long-time employees who have seen edicts from funders come and go). Buy-in for outcomes tracking and reporting may be based on acceptance of the hoop-jumping norms, not the real value of performance measurement to the overall health of the organization. It is time for boards and directors to be brave and commit to an organizational culture change – but be prepared to illustrate how it will be beneficial for staff and (more importantly) clients.
In response to these and other impediments, I mean realities, the symposium attendees identified strategic areas that would have the most impact in encouraging and implementing a data-centered culture: human and financial capital – the tenacity and the tab, creative advocacy – sector giants to back this shift, and ready-to-use systems and tools so directors don’t have to start from square one. How can nonprofit leaders better model and manage a measurement culture? Why are some nonprofits hesitant to embrace this shift?
|June 13, 2012||Posted by M. P. under Evaluation, Management, Research||
This spring I’ve been lucky enough to be working with a colleague on a multi-program evaluation project after an extended absence from the world of outcome measurement. It is a bit like riding a bicycle, in that your never forget HOW to do it, but it seems I did forget the pleasure that is found in working with agency staff as they help inform the evaluation plan and models, assist in identifying key indicators and witness the first round of data come in for review. Each project allows me to get up close and personal with a new nonprofit organization as well as to meet exemplary, dedicated nonprofit professionals at all phases of their careers, but there is something about evaluation that really gets to the essence of a nonprofit. I am, indeed, glad to be back in the measurement mix.
My colleague shared this link with me and because there is so much I love about this succinct, on point article, Six Pieces of Advice to Demystify Evaluation by Johanna Morariu, Director of the Innovation Network, I wanted to post on it rather than just send the link off into the tweetosphere.
No matter where your organization is in the evaluation (or for that matter strategic) planning process, start making data collection your friend. Immediately. It’s not going away (ever), there are more tools than ever before to help with it, and even if you hire an outside firm to conduct your evaluation – eventually their contract ends and it falls to your organization to sustain it. Don’t spend a dime on a contract or software until you know you will be able to do so. Not to worry though, a thorough consultant involves you and your staff in each step of the process and will provide the necessary technical assistance during the transition to ensure you will be able to take over the reins.
So, feel free to make eye contact with and extend a hand to that evaluation. Soon, when you are knee deep in useful data for your board, clients, funders and community supporters you won’t be able to remember life without it.