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How Measuring Impact Drives Long-Term Success for Supportive Housing Providers

Whether you call it whole-person care, person-centered care, or person-centered service coordination, the most successful outcomes for individuals start with social-good organizations like yours looking at the big picture. There are a myriad of factors, which the World Health Organization refers to as the “Social Determinants of Health” (SDOH), that play into the health and wellbeing of individuals, and all of them are important.

One of these social determinants is the availability and affordability of stable housing. Access to affordable housing has become more and more difficult over the last few years, making supportive housing programs even more critical. After all, having stable housing not only affects an individual’s health, it also plays a role in educational outcomes for children, the well-being of the aging, and any number of other positive outcomes. Just as housing is an important piece in the process of creating positive outcomes, measuring impact is essential to understanding if what you are doing works, and why.

Using Common Measures

The Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF) is a multi-state collaborative, based in Washington D.C., that brings together a dozen different nonprofit housing providers who work to provide and create affordable rental homes. As part of their mission to provide healthy homes in flourishing communities, SAHF created their Outcomes Initiative to help social-good organizations measure their impact. The initiative supports outcome measurement by providing a common framework for its members, and other supportive housing providers, as they work to measure and demonstrate their impact on their residents’ lives. Using the same measurement framework not only helps social-good organizations know what to measure, it allows for broader collaboration and the opportunity to learn from each other’s successes and failures. This framework identifies twenty-four common measures that are broken down into five categories.

  • Financial Stability & Resilience

  • Housing Stability

  • Community Engagement & Safety

  • Health & Wellness

  • Youth & Education

In addition to their Outcomes Initiative, the SAHF published a document entitled A Toolkit for Resident-Centered Outcomes Measurement in Affordable Rental Housing. This toolkit draws on SAHF’s more than ten years of experience working with programs that serve low-income households. As part of this toolkit, SAHF outlines what it calls the “Cycle of Impact Measurement & Evaluation.” Measuring impact is not a one-time event. In an ideal world, impact measurement is part of an ongoing cycle that allows organizations to continuously learn from their past and make changes to improve the future. According to SAHF’s outline cycle, this process should include five distinct steps.

Planning & Integrating Outcomes Measurement

Planning includes understanding where you are, deciding where you want to go, and figuring out how to get there. SAHF recommends that you ask yourself essential questions as part of this process. These might include. What data will you need to understand your impact? What data do we already have? What data will your partners and funders need? How burdensome will the data collection process be? Does your staff need training to understand and implement the data collection process? What resources, financial and otherwise, will be needed to accomplish my goals?

Collect Resident, Community, and Program Data

To truly understand impact, you need to collect data on several levels. First, you need to know what is going on in the community. Looking at the community as a whole serves several purposes. First, it helps you identify trends and patterns that can help you understand the barriers creating needs as well as how to address the needs themselves. Second, understanding the community can help you know what services are and are not already provided. Perhaps another organization is already partially addressing your mission. Knowing that allows you to collaborate instead of compete.

Collecting resident and program data gives you insight into who you serve, and how you serve them. This APAH Resident Services Logic Model can help you understand how your activities connect with outcomes.

Clean, Store and Assess Quality of Data

Your final reports are only as good as the data you collect. Reliable data requires following a quality assurance plan that works to identify data entry errors and incomplete records. The first step in this process is having a team that understands the importance of the data and takes special care to get it right.

Analyze Data & Create Reports

Collecting data has a purpose, to create and communicate understanding. Disaggregating data, or breaking down the data into smaller demographics, is an essential step in this process to ensure that your programs promote equity and inclusion. How you communicate your findings is determined by your audience. A funder has different interests than a collaborative partner.

Use the Data

Impact measurement is meaningless if you do not use the information to make informed-decisions about your programs and how to best serve your community. Your impact story is also a critical tool in building partnerships and increasing your fundraising.

Using the Right Resources

To effectively use the data you have collected, you need the right resources. Excel spreadsheets and paper forms are no longer enough when it comes to impact measurement. They are inefficient and often ineffective. Developing an ongoing cycle of measurement and improvement requires providing your team with the best tools for the job. Frontline staff need a case management tool that allows them to easily measure client progress over time. Program managers need client data to be aggregated to provide a view of success on a program level. Organizational leaders need a view into the outcomes and impact of the entire organization. Impact Management software takes social-good data collection, reporting, and analysis to a new level. Impact Management software helps direct service providers, including supportive housing programs, measure short, medium, and long-term outcomes on an individual, program, organizational, and community level.

New technology may seem like an unnecessary expense for your limited resources. But the truth is that the right software is an investment in your team, your organization, and your community. Automating the most tedious parts of data management improves the quality of your reporting and allows your team to focus on broadening your reach and building relationships with the individuals you serve.

Instead of asking yourself if you can afford new technology, the question should be whether you can afford not to give your team members the right tools. (For more information, see “What You Need to Know About Funding for Technology.)

SureImpact shares your passion for driving social change. Our impact management platform is designed for social change makers by social-change makers. 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 all year long. SureImpact’s simple and collaborative case management and outcome tracking tools make what was once impossible, remarkably simple. To learn more, see our About SureImpact video.


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