As we’ve all heard many times in recent months, funders are looking for outcomes. But if your organization’s idea of outcomes measurement is to scramble for data at the end of the year, then you are going to have a hard time meeting funder requirements. Nonprofit outcomes management is an important skill for today’s social service organizations to master.
Keep reading to find out exactly how to measure outcomes of a program and get tips for applying these strategies to your organization’s processes.
Evaluating Nonprofit Outcomes Management
We’ve talked a lot about outcomes measurement for your organization in general, but we haven’t yet specifically talked about how to measure the outcomes of a program. While the process scales pretty well, there are some specific things you should keep in mind when evaluating specific programs.
- Defining Objectives – Of course, everyone wants to know how to measure outcomes of a program. But, before you can look at the outcomes you have to first analyze your goals and objectives. This helps ensure that when setting up your reporting, your organization will really be asking the right questions. Your organization needs to make sure that the missions of its programs are clearly defined and that for each program you know how you will be measuring its success. Some of these program objectives can be qualitative, but funders will also want to see quantitative measures, so you should make sure to focus on these as well.
- Data Collection – Once you know what questions you are trying to answer, then you can focus on what data you will need in order to answer them. Making sure you have the right system set up for collecting this data and making sure that any case workers or other staff members who will be inputting data understand the larger picture is also an important step in this process.
- Data Analysis – After you know what data you need, you have to figure out what to do with it. This where you attempt to take the information you collect in step two and apply it to the objectives you set in step one. This is where a good software solution can really come in handy.
- Data Evaluation – Last but not least, you can’t just decide how to measure outcomes of a program and then walk away. Outcomes management systems need to be evaluated regularly, generally on an annual basis to make sure they are still serving the needs of both the organization and any funders on the particular program or project.
How to Measure Nonprofit Outcomes of a Program with Software
Having the right software tools in place can significantly ease the process of outcomes reporting. However, even the best software tool requires a certain amount of forethought and planning.
If you don’t already have a software solution in place for tracking outcomes, this should be one of the first things your organization addresses. Getting organized and effectively implementing an outcomes measurement strategy for your programs is crucial.
Here are some of the ways that Efforts to Outcomes software can offer as you learn how to measure the outcomes of a program:
- Tracking and analysis of demographic data of program participants
- Referral management
- Participant needs and progress assessment
- Participant history information
- Attendance monitoring
- Identification and tracking of key trends
- Monitoring and assessment of program and staff effectiveness
- Determining which staff, services, programs and efforts are the most effective at achieving desired outcomes.
- Reporting capabilities that allow for the reporting of multi-funder obligations in mere minutes.
As you can see, learning how to measure outcomes of a program is an invaluable skill for any social service administrator. It’s a fairly involved but also critical process in ensuring your organization’s success.