How Do You Measure the Impact of Good? Measuring Nonprofit Outcomes

By April 23, 2018Cloud, Data, Nonprofit

How do you measure the impact of a nonprofit organization? Many try to measure impact through output metrics: number of people helped, animals saved, members served. But what if we could measure not just how many but how much – as in, how much good was done?

Two organizations, GuideStar and Impact Genome Project, are attempting to do both.

GuideStar recently launched GuideStar Platinum, a platform through which nonprofits can report both outcomes and impact. About 20 percent of the more than 12,000 metrics shared on the GuideStar platform represent impact-based outcomes. The rest measured output.

Impact Genome Project is an initiative curated by Mission Measurement. It aggregates more than 10,000 pieces of research, seeking to identify patterns of what works and by extension, what doesn’t work. This analysis can help nonprofits replicate what works by sharing the outcomes.

Why Bother with Data?

The question many nonprofit managers ask is, “Why bother with data?” Outcomes data has long been the standard method of reporting for many nonprofits. It’s easy to see why. Charting how many members you’ve signed up this year is easier than ascertaining the impact that your programs have made on those members, for example.

Data is now used throughout many industries to quantify success. In medicine, for example, hospitals rely on both outcome data (the number of patients who attend a diabetic symposium or nutrition class) but also rely on impact data (changes in community data such as the number of diabetics diagnosed in a year). Together, these two metrics build a powerful story that demonstrates not just the effort of the nonprofit, but also the effect that effort has on the community.

Donors Want Data

Donors want to see data on how well nonprofits are utilizing their funds, and that’s where the GuideStar program comes into play. GuideStar is well-known in the nonprofit world as a good place for potential donors to research nonprofits.

GuideStar data enables donors to:

  • Research potential nonprofits
  • Read their financial reports
  • Understand how well their money is spent to support and sustain the nonprofit mission
  • Review leaders, salaries, money spent on overhead and more
  • Read answers from the nonprofit on specific initiatives
  • Contact the organization

Nonprofits that provide quantitative as well as qualitative answers to these questions to groups like GuideStar provide transparency to their potential donors. Donors look for metrics they can understand before giving money. They want to see not just quantity, but quality.

Success is measured through many metrics. Donors want to know that their money successfully solves the problems the nonprofit purports to solve through their program. If they are donating money to a bird sanctuary, they want to know not just how many birds were rescued, but overall, what is the impact on the sanctuary, the environment, and the local wildlife.

Data Is the Future of Nonprofits

Although you probably want to roll up your sleeves and get to work helping the audience for your program, there is a need for data, and that need will continue to grow in the future. As donors become pickier about the causes they support, the demand for facts to base nonprofit assertions will grow.

Start tracking the outcomes of your programs now and discuss ways by which you can measure the impact of your programs. You may need time to ramp up your databases, software, or other tools to help you track, measure and report outcomes.

It’s a smart idea to sign up for programs such as GuideStar or the Impact Genome Project now so that you are fully prepared for future donors who wish to investigate your organization’s credentials. The sooner you can provide data, the more attractive you will make your organization to potential donors.

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting offers a bridge to solutions that work for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.