Solid impact and outcome measures are often the deciding factor as to which nonprofit and government programs get funded and which ones get left behind. I’ve been teaching this for years and thought it was common knowledge throughout the social sector. However, a conversation with my friend Christy Farnbauch of Strategic Links revealed this to be her main frustration as a grants writer and community engagement strategist.
She is often asked to write grants for organizations and once she starts writing she discovers they have no data and information to prove their organization’s unique impact and value. What she had to say was so powerful, I asked her to share the following advice to help nonprofit and government organizations gather the information needed for award-winning grants.
If your organization closed its doors tomorrow, who would know or care? What damage would be done to your community? Are you sure?
Having clear answers for questions like these is critical to your organization’s relevance, value and ultimate survival. The questions above are intended to help you clearly articulate the value and impact of your work in the community. In my experience, I work with far too many organizations that are “faking it.” They deeply believe their work is known and valued in the community, but have no evidence or data to prove it.
Most of my 25-year career in the nonprofit sector has involved writing and reviewing grant proposals, and I spent several years working for a funding agency. A majority of nonprofits rely on grant seeking and writing as part of their contributed revenue strategy. As a professional grant writer, I’ve always considered myself an excellent technical writer. However, in many cases, I write a lot of fiction. Why do I write fiction? The majority of my clients do not have data to support their assumptions and decision-making, or to demonstrate the value and impact of their programs and services. For example, many of the arts organizations I work with have no idea why people purchase tickets to their events.
I can attest that it is far easier to write a case for support or grant proposal based on solid qualitative and quantitative data. And, the proposal generally fares better in the review and funding process. As you likely know, funders – government, corporate and individual – want assurance that they are making a sound investment in work that produces value for the community. We can no longer guess about this.
Creating a measurement culture within your organization is essential. A focused investment of time and money into the creation of a data capturing and management process will prove extremely valuable for the organization’s planning, decision-making, hiring, fundraising, and value creation.
So, where do you start? Here’s a strategy I’ve found to work every time. Ask people what they find personally meaningful about the program or service they just participated in. Notice, the question is not “what they liked.” That question will bias the results. In my experience, people are eager to tell you. Be sure to have a notepad ready to capture all the rich language they will use. The words, phrases and metaphors will prove to be a good resource for your next marketing brochure or grant application. If they agree, take their photo and ask for permission to use their story in your next proposal or on your website.
Funders and donors are increasingly interested in learning about the impact you make in people’s lives. It is imperative that your organization find ways to capture and use data in your everyday practice.
Would you like to learn more about how your organization can adopt a measurement culture that will lead to more award winning grants to help take your mission to the next level? Join Christy and myself along with a nonprofit executive director and a corporate foundation funder at one of our two upcoming “Making a Difference with Data and Outcomes” community and breakfast panels. These events are free, but you must register to attend.
There are two exciting events to choose from. Click here to learn more and to register to the event link to register for the location that is closest to you.
Do you want to start increasing funding, morale, positive press, and organizational impact today? Join the Achieving Excellence Community and receive our free eBook, Ten Tips to Open Doors to More Grants (and Other Funding): Overcoming Common Mistakes of Outcomes Measurement.
Christy Farnbauch is an experienced organizational development and community engagement strategist. Christy has extensive experience broadening, deepening, and diversifying engagement with a wide range of audiences, including program participants, board members, and donors. She facilitates planning conversations, writes award-winning grant proposals, designs training materials, and teaches workshops for organizations across the country and internationally.
Contact her at: 614-657-4406, Christy@strategiclinks.info, www.strategiclinks.info.
Sheri Chaney Jones, President
Measurement Resources Company