Over the last three decades I have had the opportunity to see how some of the best nonprofits that thoughtfully measure outcomes make it happen.
As CEO of Social Solutions, our sector-leading case management software truly influenced the outcomes of thousands of nonprofits in their core mission work.
Unfortunately, those thousands of nonprofits using proper outcome measurement and reporting software were more the exception rather than the norm for one key reason: they were part of the minority of nonprofits that revised their budget and made the commitment to spend the money needed to purchase and implement such a game-changing tool.
Why Are They The Minority?
The answer is so simple it may surprise you.
From small annual fund donors to major donors to foundations making significant grants, the emphasis has focused (with just a few exceptions) on making sure the majority of funds are going to mission work only. This is the case even if the work of the mission does not bring the desired outcomes. There is case after case documented where dollars spent supposedly in furthering the mission actually did just the opposite!
Yes, in some situations when they actually started measuring outcomes they found out their previous efforts were working against the core mission. The nonprofits involved could still truthfully state that 80% or 90% or even 95% of the dollars raised were going directly to mission-related work rather than administration or other overhead costs.
So The Dilemma Is…
Without an outcomes measurement tool, you cannot tell whether the dollars and efforts being put forth for mission work are worthwhile and achieving proper outcomes!
Perhaps, some day, there will be free or very economical tools, which will achieve such measurements.
Maybe, such a set of tools could be an add-on to other systems being used by the nonprofit so the data could be easily extracted and used for outcome measurement. Time will tell!
Until then, if you are in senior management of a nonprofit or a major funder or a board member please consider modifying the budget enough so that proper outcome measurement and reporting can be put into place. Only then will you know if you daily actions and the monies being spent are truly making a difference in the mission work you have embarked upon.
Your insistence and vision can and will make a difference so that more can perhaps be achieved with less.
Do any of you have stories to share of where such insistence did make a lasting difference? Let me know in the comments below!