The Boston Globe had a story the other day about the growing number of nonprofits that have begun tracking outcomes in an effort to improve their performance and demonstrate their value to donors.
Nonprofits are using methods favored by for-profits, such as keeping detailed databases and measuring outcomes. The business-like approach has been in use at some nonprofits for some time, but it became more important during the recession, when donations dropped and assets eroded. Since then, more charitable foundations and government agencies have been demanding hard evidence that the programs they support better people’s lives. Social service organizations are gathering more information about participants, seeking outside analysis, and tracking their effectiveness to improve their performance — and prove their worth.
“The economic downturn has put fewer dollars in the hands of philanthropic interests and contributed to a more competitive funding landscape for nonprofit organizations,” said Adrian Bordone, cofounder of Social Solutions, a Baltimore company whose performance management software is being used by more than twice as many human services organizations now compared with four years ago. “This has forced organizations who have in the past depended on anecdote and compassion to propel their fund-raising success to more aggressively pursue a data-based value proposition.”
Companies like Social Solutions produce software packages that are increasingly used by large nonprofits like LISC and United Way to measure the outcomes of their programs. For smaller nonprofits, however, these software packages can be too expensive. There are lower-cost alternatives that can get nonprofits up and running in utilizing the data they already collect. Consultants and nonprofits alike believe the knowledge gleaned from the data makes it easier for them to demonstrate their value to funders and increase the number of people who benefit from their programs.
Data Driven Detroit’s mission is to provide better data for better decision making. We want to assist organizations to better measure their effectiveness so that they can more readily and effectively tell their story to their clients, their funders, and the public at large.
Measurement provides tangible evidence of progress which, in turn, motivates you to keep at it. This is true whether your goal is physical fitness or fund raising, environmental health or literacy. Measurement helps you know where you are now, and get to where you want to be. D3 is here to help
“If you aren’t measuring what you’re doing, then you’re not evolving what you’re doing,” said Elisabeth Babcock, president of the Crittenton Women’s Union in Boston, which has been able to improve its program results and strengthen its donor base through the collection and analysis of performance data. “In the for-profit world, companies live or die by whether or not they’re getting better at what they deliver, and in the nonprofit world, we need to be doing the same.”