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5 Challenges of Implementing Impact Measurement, and How to Overcome Them

As we approach the end of the year, it’s time to make sure you have everything you need to realize transformative and sustainable impact in 2024. As you review your programs, do you have the data you need to tell a powerful impact story? Are there barriers related to having access to this information? What could you do differently now so that you have the outcomes and impact data for powerful end of year report in 2024?

Tracking and measuring individual, program, and organizational outcomes has the potential to help your organization increase impact, achieve long-term sustainability, and drive transformative systems change. But you may wonder how to get started to achieve these goals in your own social-good organization.

The first step is to either develop or redefine your existing framework. (For a step-by-step guide, see our blog “What Is Impact: A Primer on Nonprofit Impact Measurement). Implementing a robust impact measurement framework is a process, and all process changes come with their own challenges. The goal of this blog is to discuss five common challenges you may face when implementing impact measurement, and how to overcome them.

1. Not Setting Clear Short-Term Outcome Measures

Your nonprofit has big goals. You have a mission to achieve, and that mission includes changing the world, or at least your corner of it. It is important to dream big. But you cannot travel a thousand miles in one giant leap. Long-term success always starts with short-term achievements. Measuring and managing to short-term outcomes is the best first step when implementing impact measurement. Start by clearly defining your organization’s mission. Then you can break down your ultimate goals into individual steps. Ask yourself what needs to happen today, tomorrow, and next week for each individual who enrolls your programs. Then choose indicators you can measure to determine if someone is staying on course.

Breaking your measurement into steps also gives you the opportunity to track a variety of metrics. One data point is rarely sufficient to understand your impact. To see the big picture, you need a broad scope of information. You can then use those numbers to make appropriate, data-driven decisions.

2. Underestimating the Power of Fear

People fear change. Whether conscious or unconscious, the fear of the unknown and having to step outside comfort zones stops people in their tracks. Fear is both a powerful motivator, and a powerful deterrent to action. People might wonder why so many organizations stay with the status quo instead of striving for constant improvement. The answer is fear.

  • Fear of finding out the organization has not created a positive impact.

  • Fear of setting goals and not achieving them

  • Fear of letting people down

  • Fear of others finding out their limitations or weaknesses

  • Fear of becoming irrelevant

  • Fear of losing control

  • Fear of the unknown

  • Fear of losing funding

  • Fear of losing their job

The “comfort zone” is aptly named, change is uncomfortable. It is easier, in the short term, to find excuses for not moving forward and implementing new practices. Although fear is a natural and healthy initial reaction to change in our environment, it is essential to overcome that fear if we are going to achieve transformative change. Here are just a few tips to mastering the fear as you implement impact measurement.

  • Acknowledge the change

  • Acknowledge your own fears

  • Allow others to express their fears

  • Communicate

  • Celebrate successes

  • Stay positive

  • Set realistic expectations

  • Keep going

3. Devaluing Follow-up and Action

When it comes to selecting the perfect outcome measures for a social good organization, there is a delicate balance between choosing what is easy to collect and what is most meaningful for action. One of the most important reasons for implementing impact measurement is to have the data you need to take action and make data-driven decisions.

When you are selecting your success measures, focus on the “so what?” Tie the selected measures to the potential action and changes the organization plans to take once the information is available. The difference between the organizations whose measures propel them forward to greater social impact and those whose measurement activities are a waste of resources is how well the measures improve decision making and communication.

4. Unrealistic Expectations of Change

Impact measurement has the potential to drive transformative change. But it is essential to remember that meaningful change is a marathon, not a sprint. Organizations often make the mistake of abandoning the plan too soon, or ceasing the use of data, because they don’t see the change in a set amount of time. Too often, this perceived lack of success is simply because they did not allow for enough time. If your goal is to measure success after a year, you need to take into account the time it takes to set up the program. If it is going to take three months to get organized and start interventions, that means you need to give yourself at least fifteen months between program launch and the one year measurement. As we talked about earlier, it is good practice to break down your long-term mission into measurable short-term goals. They can help you stay on track and not quit the race halfway through.

5. Trying to Measure Impact Manually

Many social-good organizations do not make impact measurement a priority because it feels time consuming and overwhelming. In the past, only organizations with the budget to pay for an external evaluator or a team of data analysts were able to measure impact. That’s because the old approach to measuring impact measurement involves hours and hours of combing spreadsheets and other data sources before manually crunching the numbers.

The old way is not sustainable. You need an automated approach. Today’s case management software is not just for tracking the outputs of your programs. It is designed to collect, analyze, and report impact measurement. Without the disjointed spreadsheets or external evaluators.

Wrapping Up

SureImpact provides the data collection and impact reporting infrastructure to meet the unique needs of social-good organizations as you work to achieve your organization’s mission. SureImpact’s simple and collaborative case management and outcome tracking tools are designed to help you manage, measure, and communicate your social impact. This ensures you have impact data available in real time for grant applications, strategic planning, and stakeholder communication, without the burden of doing everything manually.

Now is the time to make impact measurement a priority. Your funders want to know your impact and there is a solution available to automate and simplify the process for collecting and reporting on impact data.

To learn more about how to set your organization up for success in 2024, check out our on-demand webinar “3 Must-Do Actions in 2023.”


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