Corporate giving, foundations, donors, and government grant makers expect organizations to demonstrate their value and prove how their services are making an impact. Organizations that are thriving in this new world are communicating their impact and value with numbers. They are willing to look into the mirror and have difficult discussions based on the facts.
Let’s say you desired to fund a job training and employment services company. Which organization would you want to fund?
Organization 1: “We provide education, job training, counseling, social development skills, referral services and other services to ensure that individuals can become gainfully employed in today’s society.”
Organization 2: “We obtain an 80% placement rate into gainful employment for unemployed and underemployed individuals. We do this by providing education, job training, counseling, social development skills, and referral services.”
All else being equal, my money is going to organization 2 and so are the funders. Organization 2 is focused on the outcomes beyond their core services. They succinctly quantify their success and funders can feel confident that their investment will have an immediate social return on investment.
The awesome thing is that organization 2 is a real organization! I almost jumped out of my seat to applaud when I heard Nattlie Ringer, CEO of The Ringer Center for Excellence and Ringer Employment Services, introduce herself at a networking function. She was the first nonprofit leader I had ever met who led with their outcomes in a two sentence introduction. As soon as there was a break, I introduced myself and asked her for an interview for this blog.
Nattlie’s introduction stood out because the first thing she shared was her quantitative outcomes. I immediately knew her unarguable value and had to learn more. How was she able to achieve such fantastic results when so many organizations I knew were struggling to find jobs for the unemployed and underemployed? Are you communicating your outcomes in your organization’s pitches? After talking with Nattlie, I learned that The Ringer Center for Excellence has seen significant rewards in increased government contracts because of their ability to quantify and demonstrate their positive outcomes.
If you are not winning the funding and grants you desire, is it because you fail to show proof of how you solve the problems that the funders care most about? It isn’t difficult to start tracking your unique impact and value. Upon my interview with Nattlie, I assessed that the The Ringer Center for Excellence has been successful at creating a high-performance measurement culture. She is not only communicating her program’s success, but is designing and developing programs to achieve these outcomes. In an industry that makes excuses for why it is so hard to find their clients gainful employment, The Ringer Center for Excellence is having tremendous success. They keep their participants in the program until they find gainful employment. In addition, they help their clients understand their transferable skills and teach them how to communicate their skills over the course of a job interview. What is even more impressive is that the program staff does not place the clients into a job, rather clients achieve this success 100% on their own because of the skills they’ve learned from the program. This success is building self-confidence and self-efficiency.
I hope Nattlie’s example of how she measures and communicates The Ringer Center for Excellence’s unique impact and value inspires you to examine how well you are doing. As I said earlier, it isn’t difficult to track your unique impact and value. If you are unsure what it is, start by answering the following questions.
• What do your decision-makers and stakeholders care about?
• Why do stakeholders fund you?
• What problem do you solve/improve for investors or their constituents?
• What need are you fulfilling?
• Who would be impacted if you closed your doors tomorrow?
• What are the consequences if you no longer provided your services?
Be honest. Have the difficult conversations about your role in this world.
If you don’t know these answers, you need to find out. Success will only come if you align your program to your funders’ goals and your target populations’ current need. Often nonprofit leaders think they have a good idea, but they are unsure whose problem they are solving and why a funder would want to partner with them. Conducting research and focus groups can help you gather helpful data to ensure you are measuring and communicating the best things to inspire your donors.
If you know the outcomes you want to achieve, but your programs are not hitting your desired targets, then maybe it is time to seek out an evidence based model. Look for other programs and resources that have found a formula that works and adopt that program. For example, if you are trying to increase employment outcomes and you are not hitting 80% success or higher, maybe you want to check out The Ringer Center Employment Model. Get trained by them and adopt their model into your work. This will help you move towards not knowing your outcomes to having a program that has a proven track record to place 80% of your clients.
Once you are clear about your stated impact and value, use the answers to the questions above as the basis for your evaluation plan. Turn your answers into measures. Start demonstrating your impact and improving your programs to have an even greater impact on the community you serve. In addition to making a huge impact on this world, you will attract the resources needed to provide the services in a much bigger way!
Need help determining how best to measure and communicate your impact and value? Need someone to help your organization have those difficult conversations? Measurement Resources is here to help. Check out our Quick Start Performance Measurement System or contact us to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation, 20 minute strategy session. Let’s discuss your needs and how Measurement Resources can provide the right solution and support to achieve your organizations goals.