Having to continually fill the pipeline of new grant opportunities and donors can be a big time waster when the need for your services keeps growing. All the grant writing, fundraising, list building, and continual search for the next funding source seems overwhelming.
What if there was another way to grow your revenues, without having to work so hard to attract new funding sources? What if you could leverage your existing funder relationships and keep them much longer? What if your funders were increasing their gifts to your organization year over year? What if it was a win-win for both of you?
If this feels like something that would be a relief, take a step back and ask yourself: is my organization leveraging our data to demonstrate our impact to successfully obtain additional sustainable funding sources?
Data Is an Asset, Not a Burden
Tracking and reporting on key metrics can seem daunting and unnecessarily time consuming for many nonprofit leadership teams. It’s understandable that you are trying to guard your limited resources. But you may be overlooking the key to your future sustainability. Data is a positive asset, not a burden. For example, data will help you realize higher levels of operational effectiveness, saving your staff valuable time. Data will help you understand how and why your programs work, the connection between the services you provide and the outcomes you produce, who you are serving, and whether the services you provide are equitable. And by providing this data to funders and collaborators, you demonstrate the success of your organization in implementing community-level change; which leads to increased funding
But it’s not enough to measure any data; you need to measure the most important data.
Measuring Outcomes, Not Just Outputs
The goal of your nonprofit is to make a positive impact on individuals, communities, and underserved demographics. Yet, according to Arnold Ventures’ Evidence-Based Policy team, many charitable organizations and programs achieve minimal to no impact. How do you tell if your organization is creating a positive impact?
The first step is understanding the different categories of information you should track and what each of them tells you.
Outputs; What was done?
Outputs are likely the most commonly tracked metrics. How many lessons did your participants attend? How many hours of counseling did your volunteers provide? How many meals were served? This type of information is critical to understanding how your program is being run and what resources are being utilized. But outputs by themselves cannot provide insight into the true success of a program. You also need quality and outcomes data.
Quality; How well was it done?
Once you know what is being done, it is important to know how well it was done. Did your programs fulfill their stated obligations? Did the recipients of the services feel valued and respected? Were their needs met? Were the services delivered in a way that was digestible by the individuals? Quality reflects the commitment and professionalism of your organization.
Outcomes; How are program participants better off?
A common myth is that your organization’s impact is defined by the number of services you have provided. But what funders really want to know is how individuals and families are better off as a result of their investment. Are you able to demonstrate that your program is producing positive outcomes for your participants? What positive changes have occurred in their individual lives because of your nonprofit? Impact-centric organizations work to deliver impactful, equitable, cost-effective, and sustainable solutions to complex social problems. Whether they achieve those goals is best measured by the outcomes of their efforts, not just the outputs.
Show Funders Your Impact
According to the National Philanthropic Trust, Americans donated over $480 billion to charities in 2021. Two-thirds of these donations came from individuals and families, with the rest coming from a combination of foundations and corporate giving.
Foundations, corporations, and individual funders look for nonprofits who service their most valued causes, and do it well. Funders are more likely to provide your organization with sustainable financial resources if you can convincingly prove your impact. For example, in 2020, the philanthropist MacKenzie Scott hired a team of advisors to find organizations that were helping with the COVID-19 Pandemic response and associated economic burdens. They investigated over 6,000 different nonprofits, rejecting the vast majority. “Insufficient evidence of impact” was among the top reasons cited for these rejections. In the end, Ms. Scott’s foundation provided a combined $4 billion to 385 organizations who were able to demonstrate positive impact in the lives of their participants. Over the past two years, her foundation has continued to give away significant amounts of funding to nonprofits who are able to demonstrate positive impact. Many other funders are following her example.
Whether it is #GivingTuesday or you are writing your annual appeal, authentic impact stories created by tracking the positive outcomes of your program participants show existing and potential funders that your nonprofit is the best steward for their donation.
Get the Most Out of Every Dollar
Tracking outcomes is about more than fundraising. It is about making the most impact with every available dollar. Data-driven transparency allows you to reinvest in what is working and pivot away from what is not. Reliable metrics give your nonprofit the tools necessary to make strategic decisions with confidence that you are giving your program participants the best chance to succeed. You can then turn around and use that impact measurement to give your current and potential funders the same confidence.
With the right tools to measure and communicate outcomes, your nonprofit can secure more donations and use them effectively. SureImpact gives you the data you need to prove your clients are better off because of your efforts. SureImpact enables you to demonstrate to your funders and stakeholders that you are delivering efficient, equitable, and financially sustainable results. We celebrate with our partners every time we learn that they have secured additional funding because of their ability to demonstrate their unique impact.
Learn more by downloading our complimentary ebook “Expanding Your Impact: A Guide for Using Data to Transform Your Organization.”