Two years ago Jossey Bass released my book Impact & Excellence Data Driven Strategies to Align Mission, Culture and Performance in Nonprofit and Government Organizations.   Impact & Excellence opened the doors for me to talk to and work with thousands of government and nonprofit leaders and funders all over the United States.  In honor of the book’s 2nd anniversary, I’ve synthesized these conversations into six of the hottest topics the social sector is facing today. In addition, I will also give you the practical first steps to help you navigate these shifts. This first topic is related to the shifting definition of accountability when it comes to grant-funded programs, how this will impact the field, and the steps leaders can take to leverage this shift.  Here are the six topics I will cover in this series:

  1. Redefining Accountability
  2. “What Works” Requires Investment in Data Collection
  3. Behavioral and Mental Health is Finally Getting Attention
  4. Succession Planning is Needed
  5. High-Performance Measurement Cultures Pay
  6. Collaboration is King

Over the next six weeks, I’ll be releasing an article on each of these six trends.

Hot Topic #1: Redefining Accountability

Accountability from a government and nonprofit funder used to mean “Did you do what you said you would do?”.  In other words, if your grant said you would buy six pens or serve 1,000 children, did you actually do these activities?

For years’ grantees have spent hours collecting relatively useless data for cumbersome compliance reports.  Many times this data is not very useful because it only tells an organization what it did with the dollars.  The data must let the organization or funders know the results that occurred because of the funding.  The data needs to show if the program is a good investment.  Should funders  keep placing additional money and time to this program in the future?

If an organization puts 1,000 children through a program, this does not mean that 1,000 children received the results that program intended for them. 

Funders are starting to move away from a focus on compliance and are moving toward a focus on outcomes and impact.  For example, the House recently passed Senate Bill 1550, which is the Program Management Improvement Accountability Act (PMIAA).  This will require federal agencies to adopt and oversee implementation of government-wide standards, policies, and guidelines for program and project management.  This will include a review of the ability of agency programs to assess the quality and effectiveness of their efforts.  In addition, this will require agencies to document and implement continuous improvement practices.

In our client work, we have noticed another byproduct of this accountability shift.  Funders are looking to redesign how they review and award grants. They are placing their focus on awarding grants to organizations who can demonstrate results for the clients they served.  This is different than showing the activities performed.  Funders are also becoming more strategic in terms of how these documented results are aligned with the biggest needs in the community.  This trend is likely to continue to gain momentum over the next years, eventually becoming the norm on how grants are reviewed and funded.

Measurement is important

If you are not already consistently measuring outcomes of your programs and services, start investing now!.  Stay ahead of this shift to results based accountability, and ensure your programs are competitive for future funding.  Rather than just pleasing your funders, this shift will allow you to have the insights required for your own program improvement and greater results for those you serve.

Our recommended and proven steps to the development and implementation of the best outcome measures for your organization are outlined in Chapter 8 of Impact & Excellence.  Here is a summary of the basic steps:

  1. Clarify your whys. Document why you do what you do and why your funders fund you.  Why do your participants and stakeholders partner with you?
  2. Turn your whys into outcome statements. Do you change attitudes, knowledge, skills, behaviors, social status, etc.?
  3. Create a logic model for your entire organization.
  4. Select the five to seven best measures to tell your organization’s story. The best measures will reflect your whys, your funders whys, and your participants’ whys.
  5. Start collecting and reporting the data!

Start the process today!

Are you looking for a painless and efficient process to develop your logic model and to establish your core measures?   Our Quick Start Performance Measurement System is the best solution for you!  In this cost-effective program we do all the hard work while you have all the fun on the road to greater accountability and impact.  Contact us today to schedule a call to explore if this is the best program for you and your organization.

Don’t forget to visit next week!  Learn how a shift toward “what works” is generating more support, funding in data collection and infrastructure and what this means for your organization.