Say you're standing in line at the grocery store when you see a member of your nonprofit's board. They greet you and ask how things are going with your organization's new after-school program.
Even in this informal setting, you have an opportunity to report on your nonprofit's impact. To do so, you'll likely want to share tangible information that illustrates just how successful your program has been.
This is where nonprofit metrics come in handy. This data concretely communicates the effect your organization's inputs and activities have on the community. Reporting to the board member that you've had 30 new students enroll in your program, and 75% of them improved their grades, for example, will provide much more insight than saying that things are simply going "well."
Of course, metrics can help your nonprofit with more than casual conversations in the grocery store. They're an important part of formal impact assessment efforts, as well. But some nonprofits struggle to know exactly what nonprofit metrics to track as well as how to measure and communicate them.
We're here to help. In this guide, we'll dive into the world of nonprofit metrics, giving you all you need to know and the actionable tips that your organization can use to accurately measure your outputs and outcomes. Specifically, we'll cover:
After reading this guide, you'll be equipped to track metrics that can help your organization show the world the progress it's making toward accomplishing its mission. Let's begin.
An Overview of Nonprofit Metrics
When it comes to tracking metrics, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. Each nonprofit will choose to measure different metrics based on its unique mission and use different tools to do so. But by having a foundational knowledge of what nonprofit metrics are, you can set your own organization up to successfully select, track, and leverage the metrics that will be most important to your cause.
What are nonprofit metrics?
Nonprofit metrics, also known as nonprofit key performance indicators (KPIs), are measurable outputs and outcomes that help nonprofits assess the impact their inputs and activities make on their communities.
Quantitative metrics are numerical values, which are either reported as whole numbers or calculated through a specific formula. Examples of quantitative nonprofit KPIs include calculable metrics such as improvements in income, grades, and credit scores.
Qualitative metrics can't be measured numerically—instead, these less-tangible metrics examine the characteristics and qualities of something. For example, metrics like participant satisfaction, brand awareness, or perceptions of cultural competency would be considered qualitative. At first glance, these metrics seem more difficult to measure than quantitative metrics, but in truth, they simply require a different method of measurement, such as surveys, focus groups, interviews, and more.
In addition to being quantitative or qualitative, nonprofit KPIs can also be classified as either leading or lagging.
Lagging metrics showcase past performance and what actually happened (such as successful program completion).
Leading metrics are percentages that may be indicators of future performance (such as participant maintenance of a new behavior).
When you measure both leading and lagging KPIs, your nonprofit can get a better sense of its current progress and how you can stay on track for long-term success.
Why is it important to consistently track nonprofit KPIs?
Some nonprofits make the mistake of thinking that metrics are only important to review during certain times, like when compiling an annual report, getting ready for a board meeting, or preparing for a large-scale grant.
However, regularly checking in on your metrics is more beneficial. By consistently reviewing your nonprofit metrics, your organization can:
Set achievable goals and make informed, strategic decisions
Deftly pivot when you identify problem areas or room for improvement
Provide regular updates and insights for your stakeholders
Track trends and patterns that emerge over time for long-term insights
Making metric tracking a regular part of your nonprofit's operations eliminates the guesswork of running your organization. Information is power, and with it, you can do more for your community, more efficiently and effectively.
What tools can I use to track my nonprofit's metrics?
You'll need a strong system for tracking and analyzing your nonprofit's metrics. Depending on your needs and mission, your nonprofit may leverage tools such as a donor database, a point-of-sale system, a student information system, a website analytics dashboard, or social media analytics tools to collect and report on some metrics.
However, on their own, you also need to track client activities and outcomes across programs in order to improve outcomes for your clients and understand how they are better off as a result of your programming. Consider investing in a comprehensive case management and impact management platform like SureImpact to make the job easier and keep all your information in one place.
With SureImpact, you can:
Automate client data collection
Track outcomes and impact data that is unique to your organization and its goals
Aggregate data across platforms
Store data securely
Identify trends and outcomes
SureImpact is a tool that offers the right features to empower you to be proactive in tracking how you're helping improve your community and to report your progress to your stakeholders.
23 Nonprofit Metrics For Your Organization To Track
There are a wide variety of metrics that your nonprofit can choose from to track its progress toward its goals.
When selecting the KPIs you want to track, it's important to choose the metrics that are fully aligned with your organization's size, mission, and area of focus. Tracking information just for the sake of having more information will eventually overwhelm your team and make it difficult to see through the noise to the important trends and patterns. Choose your metrics wisely!
Here are 23 metrics to consider:
1. Number of Constituents Served
This metric is reported as a whole number and tells you how many constituents were served by a certain action, project, or program. For example, a nonprofit focused on serving the elderly might report that 67 constituents were served in one month with its meal delivery service.
2. Services Delivered
This KPI quantifies how many services were delivered to your constituents and can be broken into types of service. For instance, an animal shelter might report 45 spay and neuter services delivered in one month, as well as 10 canine dental cleanings.
3. Diversity of Participants, Staff, and Board
There are a few different ways to measure the diversity of a certain group within your organization. For example, you might measure the average age of participants in your support group, or review the gender makeup of your fundraising team.
4. Percentage of Constituents Demonstrating New Behavior or Skill
To calculate this metric, you would divide the number of constituents demonstrating new behavior or a new skill by the total number of constituents taught that new behavior or skill. Then, you would multiply the quotient to yield a percentage. Say 10 constituents at your women's shelter demonstrated new job interview skills, while 20 total women were taught the skills. Then, the percentage of constituents demonstrating a new skill would be 50%.
5. Number of Constituents Returning for Treatment
This straightforward metric is reported as a whole number. For instance, perhaps your non-profit mental health clinic for homeless individuals saw 23 clients return for treatment last October.
6. Cost Per Success
This KPI requires you first to define "success." Whether success means an annual fundraising campaign goal reached or a new home built for a family in need, cost per success empowers you to take a closer look at how much money you spent to make that success a reality. To calculate it, divide your expenses by your revenue, or report your expenses as a dollar and/or hour amount.
7. Increased Family/Social Relations Stability
You can report this metric as a percentage. You'll simply look at the number of participants that improved or developed positive relationships, divide it by the total number of participants, and then multiply by 100 to yield a percentage. For instance, you might find that 75% of your participants reported better relationships with spouses in the last six months after receiving your services.
8. Increased Health Conditions
This metric tells you what percentage of constituents experienced reduced health problems, similar to increased social status. For example, perhaps your organization finds that 16% fewer of your program participants reported illness during flu season.
9. Increased Economic Conditions
Increased economic conditions is similar to increased social status and increased health conditions in that it's reported as a percentage. This metric tells you the percentage of participants who, for example, retained employment, increased their income, or moved into permanent housing.
10. Increased Economic Development
If your organization helps to create jobs in your community, this is a helpful metric to track. To calculate it, total the number of jobs created and the total dollars injected into the community through these new economic development opportunities.
11. Participant, Employee, or Stakeholder Experience and Satisfaction
This qualitative KPI can be used to measure satisfaction and experience for any group of people within your organization's reach and is measured through qualitative tools like interviews or questionnaires. For example, a nonprofit focusing on literacy for at-risk youth might measure participant experience and satisfaction by conducting interviews with youth participating in their after-school program.
12. Community Support/Awareness
There are a number of ways to measure this metric. To get a feel for the level of community support or awareness for your cause, you could measure your revenue, donor retention rate, social media follower growth, or program attendance rate. Since your organization will define what support and awareness look like, you can decide the medium through which to measure it.
13. Average Gift Size
Average gift size tells you the average donation amount given to your nonprofit in a set period of time. You find this metric by dividing the total dollar amount of donations received in a set time period by the number of donations received during that same time period. The resulting number is the average gift size. For example, if an arts-focused nonprofit totaled their total dollar amount of donations in one month to be $50,000, and then divided that amount by 100, the total number of gifts received, they would know that their average gift amount was $500.
14. Reduction of Undesirable Behavior
This metric can be measured as a percentage and can help you gauge the incident rate of undesirable behavior after a program or project. For example, you might look at program participants' relapses or recidivism.
15. Increased Desirable Behavior
Increased desirable behavior is also measured as a percentage, and tells you what percent of participants achieved the goal of exhibiting a desirable behavior. For example, you might determine that the desired behavior is healthier eating, measured by fruit and vegetable intake. If 30 out of 50 participants increase their vegetable intake, you know that 60% of participants are exhibiting the desired behavior.
16. Maintenance of New Behavior
Maintaining a new desirable behavior is what really counts. This metric can also be measured as a percentage and can tell you what percentage of participants moved to a new level or did not re-enter a system or program. You can calculate this KPI by tracking the number of individuals who do not re-enter. For example, if 10 out of 20 participants in a smoking cessation program do not re-enroll in the program after graduation, you know that 50% of participants are likely to maintain their new behavior.
17. Donor Growth
Donor growth tells you whether your organization's total number of donors increased or decreased during a given period of time. It is measured as a percentage and calculated by subtracting the number of donors at the beginning of the time period from the number of donors at the end of the time period. The difference is then divided by the number of donors at the beginning of the time period and then multiplied by 100 to yield a percentage. So, if your organization had 300 total donors in March and then 500 total donors in April, your donor growth rate would be 66%.
18. Volunteer Attendance
This metric tells you how many volunteers attended a certain volunteer activity or event. It is reported as a whole number and can help you identify trends in volunteer engagement and retention that can inform how you manage your volunteer program. For example, you might find that you have more volunteers during the holiday season at the end of the year versus the summer months, which could help better gauge when to promote your program.
19. Volunteer to Donor Conversion Rate
Volunteer to donor conversion rate is also reported as a percentage and tells you what percentage of volunteers have become donors. You calculate it by dividing the number of volunteers who started donating by your total number of volunteers and then multiplying the quotient by 100 to get a percentage. So, if your organization saw that 40 out of 45 volunteers became donors, your volunteer to donor conversion rate would be 89%.
20. Increased Knowledge and Learning
You can measure this KPI by calculating the percentage of participants who increased their skills or knowledge as a result of your organization's actions. For example, say that 20 out of 40 breastfeeding class participants self-reported that their knowledge and learning increased as a result of the class. You would know that 50% of participants found the program to be valuable for their education.
21. Changed Attitudes
You can measure changed attitudes in a number of ways. For example, you might send out a survey to program participants or gather ratings or reviews. However you decide to track this metric, you'll need to determine what constitutes a changed attitude. Then you can divide the number of participants who had a changed attitude by the total number of participants and multiply by 100 to get a percentage. For example, say that for a community outreach program focused on drug use prevention, you determine that participants will exhibit a changed attitude based on whether or not they commit to avoiding drug use at the end of the program. If 10 out of 13 participants make this commitment, your organization will know that 77% of participants are exhibiting changed attitudes because of your program.
22. Increased Readiness
This metric tells you how many participants meet the minimum qualifications for the next level of a program. It can be measured as a percentage by dividing the number of participants meeting minimum qualifications by the total number of participants and multiplying by 100 to get a percentage. For instance, if 25 out of 30 financial literacy program participants are meeting the minimum qualifications for the next level of the program, you know that 83% of your participants are showing increased readiness and are ready to move to the next level.
23. Reduction in Administrative Costs
This KPI tells you the percentage of funds budgeted for the population you serve, something you can calculate to compare to previous years. You can calculate it by dividing administrative costs by the total budget and multiplying by 100 to get a percentage. Say you find that this year, your administrative costs come out to 20% of your budget, whereas last year they were 25% of your budget. This tells you that you're moving towards a place where more of your budget is going toward serving your constituents.
Using Metrics to Improve Your Organization's Strategy
Once your organization has selected metrics to track based on your needs and goals, you should give yourself time to collect data and insights. You might, for example, measure your fundraising success over the course of a year, or look at how program participants' behavior changes throughout a six-month course.
But once you have a wealth of information compiled, what do you do with it? Here are a few ideas to put your metrics into action:
Regularly review your metrics and watch for trends you can take action on. When you consistently review your metrics, you'll start to see patterns in your data that can inform your decisions. For example, you might notice that a parenting class your nonprofit offers consistently has a low attendance rate. With this information, you could take a closer look at how you could improve the class curriculum or how you market the class to your constituents.
Use the information to improve how your internal team functions. Sometimes your data will point you in the direction of internal improvements. For example, if you see that your donor growth rate is falling, that may be a sign that your fundraising team needs additional training. Or, if your cost per success is going up, that may indicate that you need to have a conversation with your case workers to identify why the cost is rising, and then work together to reduce it.
Share with your stakeholders. Whether you need to stay accountable to the public, your board members, or your funders, your nonprofit metrics can give you a leg up in how you demonstrate impact to stakeholders. Metrics allow you to be specific in how you communicate impact, and in turn, give stakeholders the chance to provide you with specific feedback on your strategic moves to improve constituents' lives.
Note that you can be creative in how you communicate your metrics. For example, you might lean into visuals and communicate your volunteer program metrics through charts or graphs, making them easily digestible and understandable. You can also build a story around the data you see in your metrics. These strategies are especially helpful for leveling up your approach to your organization's annual report or board report.
Nonprofit metrics help your organization to quantify the impact its work has on your community. By understanding how to select, consistently track, and communicate your metrics, you'll be well on your way to sustained success for your mission!
Looking to learn more about assessing and communicating impact? Check out these additional resources, curated by the SureImpact team:
The Ultimate How-To Guide to Social Impact Assessment. Learn how to identify the right approach to social impact assessment for your organization and how to get started.
Impact Story Toolkit: A Guide to Nonprofit Storytelling. In this guide, you'll learn how to move beyond reporting dry data to craft compelling narratives that showcase the value you bring to your community.
Back to the Basics of Impact Measurement. This eBook will set you up with the foundational knowledge you need to measure your organization's impact.