Your mission as a high-performing social sector leader is to improve the lives of the people and communities your serve. Success requires you to measure outcomes, strengthen your impact story, and increase funding. In Stephen R. Covey’s best-selling book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he defined Habit 2 as beginning with the end in mind. Beginning with the end in mind means “to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination.” Whether you are looking at your personal development as a social-service leader, or ensuring your organization is delivering the maximum benefits possible to your community, the concept is the same. You must begin with the end in mind and then be proactive to make it happen.
Here are seven key questions to ask yourself to help your organization drive maximum impact.
Do you have a clearly defined theory of change, (i.e. an outline of how your organization’s activities are understood to result in your final intended outcomes and impact?)
Do you have clearly defined outcome measures that you use regularly to make decisions?
Do you have a case management system that tracks what you do and how well you do it?
Does your reporting technology give you real-time access to key performance and outcome measures?
Does your staff know how to use the data in the reporting system for their day-to-day activities?
Do you have processes in place to regularly use your performance and outcome measures to make performance improvements?
Do you have processes in place to regularly communicate your unique social return on investment with your funders to attract more dollars?
Impact-centric organizations answer “Yes” to all seven questions. Do you still have room for improvement? Here are five steps to help you get started.
Step 1: Articulate your mission and future goals.
Clarify your mission and future goals by asking yourself why your organization exists. Why does your organization do what you do? What value does your organization provide to the community? What would happen if you closed your doors tomorrow?
Step 2: Establish outcome measures that demonstrate your organization’s unique impact and value to society.
Outcome measures demonstrate how your organization is achieving your mission and goals. Outcome measures bring about change in the lives of participants. Good measures are observable, quantifiable characteristics or changes that demonstrate achievement of a desired result. Note: If you need a little help, SureImpact has a library of over 200 best-practice measures with the outcome indicators already defined.
Step 3: Establish a clear process for collecting data and using it to make decisions.
Today’s technology makes measuring key outcomes and impact easier and more efficient, enabling social-service leaders to use a data-driven approach for all of their decision making. There are three types of data your staff should be collecting: outputs (what happened), quality (how well something was done), and outcomes (how clients are better off). Select a technology solution that is easy to use and automates and simplifies the process for collecting these three types of data.
Step 4: Train your staff to be focused on using data
Impact-centric social-service organizations use data on a daily basis to drive decisions. Staff need to understand how to collect client data and apply it to solve challenges. The most effective way to begin implementing a data-driven culture is to give staff visibility into real-time insights about their performance and their clients’ outcomes. Staff with real-time access to these data are able to see what programming works and invest their time and energy into creating the best possible outcomes. Your job as leaders is to encourage your staff to make data-driven decisions and then celebrate their success to reinforce the organizational culture.
Step 5: Share your impact story with the community and funders
Organizations who are able to consistently collect and use data to share a compelling impact story are able to serve more clients, improve operations, increase revenues, and strengthen relationships with key stakeholders. Funders are interested in investing their resources in services that do the most good and have the greatest impact on the things they value most. Your impact story should highlight metrics such as cost per successful outcome and social return on investment. This will allow you to differentiate your organization from those with parallel services who are competing for the same funds.
SureImpact is a user-friendly case management and reporting platform that facilitates the five steps required to drive maximum impact. SureImpact is specifically designed to provide the data collection and impact reporting infrastructure that connects all members of the social-service ecosystem with real-time data and enables them to demonstrate impact and social return on investment to funders.
SureImpact was built for the social sector by people who have been working in the government, nonprofit, and collective impact initiatives for over twenty years and have a deep understanding of the unique needs of social-service organizations and their funders. From communicating to donors and funders to understanding the factors that produce the best outcomes for your organization’s participants, SureImpact can help you secure the high-impact future you envision.
To learn more about important steps social-service organizations and networks can take to craft impact-centric measurement cultures, view our on-demand webinar “Back to the Basics: Communicating Impact.”