Great social-service sector organizations define their success by the impact they have on individuals, families, and communities. They also define their success by the effectiveness of the services they deliver related to the resources at their disposal. But for many organizations, capturing impact remains an area where they continue to struggle. Leaders know the value of measures and metrics but often are unsure about how to get started selecting the correct measures for their organization. In this blog we will discuss how leaders can determine what you want to measure, four traits of successful performance measures, and what to do with the data collected.
Determining What to Measure
Organizations must use a variety of measures to tell their story. At a minimum, organizations should track data on participant demographics, services delivered, cost and revenues, participant and stakeholder feedback, and key outcomes. You can then use this data to show what your organization has done (outputs), how well it was done (quality), and how your participants are better off (outcomes).
In order to determine what outcomes you specifically want to measure, a good place to start is with your mission statement. For example, why does your organization exist? What is the heart of the challenge you are trying to address? The next place to look is at your funder’s goals and objectives. What is their mission and the motivation behind their funding decisions? How can your organization align with your funder’s goals in order to highlight the success of their funding efforts? And lastly, you need to listen to the needs and wants of the people you serve. When you integrate these three points of view together, you are better able to make decisions that address the needs of all stakeholders and lead to the long-term stability of your organization.
4 Traits of Successful Performance Measures
Social-service sector organizations are complex; therefore, it would be highly irresponsible to evaluate the effectiveness of a government or nonprofit organization with a single measure. Using a single indicator of success makes it more difficult to take appropriate, data-driven actions. If the outcome is less than desirable, that one measure is unlikely to provide decisions makers with insights about why things are not going as planned. Is it because participants are not satisfied with services and are therefore less engaged? Or is it because there is inadequate funding to provide the proper services to achieve these outcomes?
When determining the new performance measures for your organization, there are four traits of successful performance measures to consider.
1. Effective Measures Have Face Validity
Face validity means a measure is perceived to measure what it is intended to measure. For example, if a set of measures is designed to assess program performance and management, line staff and stakeholders must agree that these are, in fact, good measures of their program’s performance.
2. Effective Measures Reflect the Needs of All Stakeholders
Good measures not only are important to the leadership of the organization but also are valued by staff, clients, and other key stakeholders. Before implementing measures, it is critical to understand what these different groups value most. Organizational leaders must consider how selected measures help these groups achieve identified goals. As mentioned earlier, good measures are those aligned with the “whys” important to your organization, stakeholders, and participants.
3. Effective Measures are Simple to Understand
The best social-services sector measures are easy to explain and understand. If staff or stakeholders must invest significant time learning how to interpret a measure, they may stop trying to collect and consider data. If the measure itself is difficult to understand, the measure will then lack face validity. Leaders must ensure that each selected measure is clear and that all parties understand the value of this measure to their specific roles in the organization and to the organization as a whole.
4. Effective Measures are Timely
The sooner data and results can be communicated, the more powerful and useful they will be to the organization. A twelve-to-eighteen-month lag between the time data is collected and performance measure results are shared is common in sector, but basing decisions on year-old data is not ideal. By the time data becomes available, it is nearly impossible to decide whether current organizational efforts are having the desired impact.
How to Share the Data
In order to create a compelling impact story, organizations must communicate their impact fully and often. You must use data to powerfully illustrate your organization’s authentic success and cast a compelling vision—one that inspires belief in your ability to fulfill the promise of your stated mission.
High-impact organizations do not rely on a single type of communication. Instead, it’s important to strategically weave data into the fabric of enterprise-wide key messages. Leaders of the most effective organizations share the story of the organization’s impact and excellence in a variety of ways, embracing creative approaches and tapping various mediums for sharing data-driven communication with stakeholders.
Measuring the correct outcomes supports your organization’s aim to achieve greater impact and excellence. In order to ensure continued success and improve upon it, you must be able to track, measure, and share data regarding the success of your stated goals and outcomes.
SureImpact connects the social ecosystem with a user-friendly case management platform that thinks like a collective impact outcomes generator. SureImpact connects all members of the social-service ecosystem with the real-time data and insights they need to make important decisions and understand the impact of their efforts.
To learn more about how SureImpact can help you track, measure, and share what is truly important, check out our free, on-demand webinar “Moving from Outputs to Outcomes to Increase Financial & Mission Impact.”