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How Important is Outcome Measurement?

Nadia Prescott

Congratulations on winning that latest grant! Now that the money is in the bank, it often seems like running programs takes over all of our time. Outcome measurement can turn into an afterthought – yet it is a vital part of program delivery. Here’s why:

  1. Outcome measurement provides a valuable real-time feedback loop so that programs are informed and relevant. In addition, clients who are given the opportunity to assist with feedback – providing we take it seriously – often feel honored and empowered. They feel that their opinions matter, and that they are part-architects of the program. Not only will their insight help us serve them and others better in the future, we have created strong bonds with our clients that lift all of us up.
  2. By querying partners, we address any small relationship problems before they become unmanageable. We can also incorporate their inspired ideas and suggestions for improvement immediately if a feedback loop is in place to catch them.
  3. Are we fulfilling our goals and obligations as promised? If yes, excellent! Never underestimate the impact of good news on funders, our public, and our staff. Most of us in the non-profit sector work because we believe in a heart-based mission, and not for externals like money or status. Keeping good outcome measurement gives us the opportunity to praise staff, spread the good news about our work to our supporters, and touch funders on a regular basis. There is nothing more satisfying than to let a funder know that their money is achieving exactly what they hoped it would, and that they have made a positive impact in people’s lives.
  4. If we are not fulfilling our goals and obligations, we have a chance to reevaluate and ask why in time to make changes. We can also communicate our challenges to our funders before the end of the grant cycle. They may be able to assist us, but even if they can’t, timely notification avoids an unpleasant surprise in the final report.

Here’s how you can implement basic outcome measurement:

  1. Develop a basic evaluation form to be used whenever services are conducted or clients touched, emphasizing how important their feedback is to the program. A short pre- and post-test can also help you understand if there have been any knowledge- or attitude-based changes as a result of program implementation.
  2. Budget time for administrative staff to input feedback and answers into an Excel spreadsheet, which then can be used to generate reports on a regular basis, and compare answers over time.
  3. Make sure to seriously read, reflect upon, and implement the feedback provided.
  4. Consider using online questionnaires to follow-up in the six- to twelvemonth timeframes, and to solicit additional feedback about new program ideas before implementation.
  5. Communicate your successes to supporters and funders on a rolling basis, and create heart-based videos based on cases that have been lifechanging.
  6. Invite key clients, partners, and supporters in for informal focus groups at least once a year to ask what you are missing and how you can improve. Your desire to do better will form a foundation for trust and gratitude that will allow you to improve current programs and build future ones that achieve your mission and goals.

Outcome measurement is an absolutely essential tool for developing the programs and deepening the relationships needed for success. Please let us know if we can help you put your outcome measurement system into place.