It is key to remember that when providing victim services, agencies must be achieving positive outcomes in order to be effective. Services that instinctively or intuitively feel like the right response are not enough. Services must meet needs.
Victim services organizations must move away from output measurements (how many counseling sessions, how many victim impact statements, etc.) and toward outcome measurement in nonprofit organizations (how are victims participating in your program benefiting, what improvements are they showing, etc.). Without outcome measurement, you cannot tell if you are succeeding or failing.
David Voth, the executive director of a victim services agency explains that there are four key needs that crime victims face:
- Safety: Are actual and perceived security needs met?
- Healing: Are emotional, spiritual, and physical recovery needs addressed?
- Justice: Are participation, rights, and advocacy helpful, even without an arrest?
- Restitution: Are criminal, civil, and compensatory financial recovery options used?
Mr. Voth trains nationally on the importance of providing services in order to achieve outcomes. This focus resulted in $1.5 million dollars of funding for his organization in October 2016. Measuring the outcomes for victims across these 4 areas, therefore, is a good baseline for victim services organizations.
At the end of the day, however, the purpose of outcome evaluation is to assess how a victim service agency’s programs are positively affecting the lives of victims of crime. There are other benefits, however. Looking at outcomes gives all victim service agencies a shared language that they can use to communicate with each other and to communicate with funders. Funders for victim services at the federal level, such as the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) want to know more than just how hard agencies are working, they want to know if that hard work is making a difference in people’s’ lives.
Reporting requirements have changed in order to make sure that dollars invested in victim service programs are well-spent and that the programs are producing real results. In order to be high capacity, victim service agencies must shift to being results-oriented. As David Voth, says: “An outcome-focused organization uses quality measures to assure evidence-based, comprehensive, and efficient services that are victim-centered and victim-driven.”
Traditional ways of looking at victim services (outputs vs. outcomes) are not the only facet of most victim service agencies that needs updating. Data collection and reporting methods are also long due for an update at most agencies. As much as 44% of staff time at victim service agencies is spent producing reports from Excel spreadsheets and/or Access databases to meet funder requirements. This is inefficient in the extreme and does not allow for time to analyze the cumulative data, refine services to be more successful and then measure the outcomes to see if the refined services are leading to better outcomes for victims.
Data collection in victim service organizations needs to be a part of ongoing case management. Rather than pulling together reports for funders, think of your data collection as a way to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your victim services. If you select the right data collection tool, easily produced reports for funders will be part of the package.
When speaking of investing in a program management software program, your organization needs to look at the long-term benefits, both to the victims you serve and to your staff and resources. As Mr. Voth put it: “Quality is not an accident and measuring success takes commitment and an investment of time and money.” Choosing the right program management software can bring with it both short and long-term success. ETO and Apricot are ready out-of-the-box to start collecting data on your program, measuring outcomes, generating reports and lightening the load on your front-line and administrative staff. Contact one of our Solutions Specialists to learn more about ETO and Apricot software solutions for your agency.