Tips and Tools for Effectively Measuring Your Work
By Hannah Kanstroom and Miki Akimoto
Hannah Kanstroom, left, and Miki Akimoto
In addition to determining if their work is actually making a difference, nonprofits that measure their work consistently and apply the findings are better equipped to avoid mission drift and misallocation of key resources. Measuring impact is both a challenge and an opportunity, as this work is not easy and often can seem overwhelming.
Where to begin? Start with the big picture and work backward.
Your vision, mission, and valuesnot funder prioritiesshould be the key drivers for your evaluation. Utilize a strategic plan with specific goals to create the desired image of future success and align it with the organizations distinct value proposition. This type of evaluation requires buy-in from all stakeholders and, can be expensive at times if you consider factors such as staff time, cost of outside expertise, or data management systems, so it is crucial to be thoughtful and strategic in what, when, and how your organization takes on measurement.
When thinking about how to measure change, work collectively to identify what exactly it is you are trying to change and what the short-, medium-, and long-term indicators of success are that will show that you met your stated goals.
Developing a simple framework can help alleviate some of the difficulty of getting started; impact measurement does not have to be complex to be effective. One way to start is to pick one of your key initiatives or programs and work through these steps:
Another issue about which nonprofits need to be mindful is that funders and nonprofits often define metrics and success differently in specific program areas, leading to confusion around what a target goal should be for an organization. Increasingly, benchmarking studies are being conducted within different sectors, but it remains a concern for nonprofits engaging in evaluation.
Although measuring impact presents several obstacles, it never has been more important for nonprofit organizations. The ability to effectively articulate the unique mission, vision, and goals for the organization is critical to obtaining dollars from both funders and individual donors who value making true investments in nonprofits and expect to see clear results.
Hannah Kanstroom is a vice president and practice expert, and Miki Akimoto is a managing director and national practice executive, both at Bank of America Private Bank. Email them at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.