Measurement for measurement’s sake will not produce the widespread organizational changes needed to achieve high-performance nonprofits that are equipped to realize greater impact and excellence. However, a measureable roadmap is essential for creating impactful programs and communicating to donors and funders the changes that are happening due to the nonprofit’s activities. Sometimes nonprofit leaders are guilty of avoiding measurement, because they believe their objectives are too vague or intangible to quantify. This can be especially true for organizations designed to educate and advocate for a particular topic.

Yes, it would be easier if every nonprofit goal was as concrete as increasing revenues by 4% this quarter. In reality, measuring an increase in revenues is missing the true mission and ultimate impact of the organization. Nonprofits use their revenues to support their activities designed to change lives and circumstances. These are produced by changing behaviors and attitudes of policy makers and citizens – biking more, feeding children more fruits and vegetables, implementing universal design principles in new buildings, etc.

Although it is tempting, don’t throw in the towel on measuring these harder to gather data and information. Measuring the impacts of communication and advocacy efforts such as Facebook posts and large-scale advocacy campaigns is not only possible, it is needed for success. Without these critical measures it is difficult to figure out where you’re going because you don’t know where you are.

Before you establish measures, start with defining the purpose of your advocacy and communication activities by answering the following questions.

¨ What contributions to the world are you hoping to achieve with your advocacy, campaign, or activities?

¨ How do you know if you are making progress?

At this stage don’t worry about how you will measure something, just answer the questions.

The next step is to create a measureable roadmap to your ultimate goal identified in the questioning process. Do this by breaking your goal down into a series of concrete benchmarks called objectives. Objectives are different than goals in that they are more specific and have a shorter time frame. When you’re clear about what results you want to achieve in the short term, it becomes easier to assess whether your actions are leading to your long-term goals.

Objectives should directly address the program or societal goal you are pursuing. Always think in terms of your constituents, consumers, clients, etc. Avoid objectives that focus solely on you and your time, like developing a communications plan. Objectives should focus on the results you want to achieve with your stakeholders on the way to your goal.

Good objectives are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Result-focused and Time-specific. For example, an organization that desires to promote the health and wellness of the community by increasing those that use bike trails may set the following roadmap with SMART objectives.

By the end of the first quarter, we will have

¨ conducted at least 10 meetings with local officials and businesses about the benefits of biking for businesses and the community.

¨ tripled the amount of people accessing our website or Facebook page that address the specific topics related to our goals.

¨ increased information and referral calls about the bike program by 5%.

By the end of the first year

¨ five organizations will be actively participating in the bike program.

¨ we will observe an increase of activities on the bike trails by at least 5%.

¨ there will be a 5% increase in the number of people surveyed by our annual random telephone survey who report using the trails during the year.

Establishing smaller objectives on the road to your overall goal, will help leaders know where the programs or activities are not doing what they intended them to do that would prevent them to reach their goal.  For example, if the organization is unable to establish the initial meetings, it may be unlikely that they will get momentum in getting organizations signed up for the bike program. Leaders can quickly make changes to course correct, allowing faster achievement of ultimate goals.

If you are looking for help to create a measureable roadmap to your goals, Measurement Resources is here for you! Contact us today for your free 20-minute strategy session.

Want more information on how to increase funding, morale, positive press, and organizational impact? Join the Achieving Excellence Community and receive our free eBook, Ten Tips to Open the Door to More Grants (and Other Funding): Overcoming Common Mistakes in Outcomes Measurement.


Sheri Chaney Jones
Measurement Resources Company
January 2014