New Option for Implementing Performance Measurement to Achieve Increased Social Impact Through Continuous Improvement
It’s no secret that high-performing organizations are successful because they are focused and consistently use data to drive strategic decisions predictably. Increasingly, social sector leaders recognize the value of taking data-driven approaches to improve mission impact and organizational outcomes. And the research included in Impact & Excellence demonstrates this point—nonprofit and government organizations that use measures aligned with their mission to make decisions are significantly more likely to increase their revenues, efficiencies, and overall organizational impact.
So, what sorts of performance management activities do successful organizations regularly engage in? According to our research, the following elements are pervasive throughout organizational cultures that are high-performing and data-driven:
- Accessible data and timely reporting aligned with the organization’s mission and strategic plan to help guide leaders’ decision-making;
- Ability to easily extract and analyze data to conduct customizable, ad hoc reporting to assist with grant writing and development efforts;
- Established processes and procedures that prioritize the consistent recurrance of these activities, regardless of potential key staff turnover or transition; and
- Access to trained professionals who are dedicated to performing data collection and analysis, and who are capable of applying key performance and outcome data to continually drive change for increased impact.
But the reality for many nonprofit and government leaders tends to be much more complex. Despite the desire to be high performing, organizations often lack the resources to have dedicated full-time staff to put performance measurement into practice and to regularly monitor metrics. And even when organizations do have the resources, knowing where to start with measuring social impact can present challenges. If an organization chooses to hire an individual, knowing what skills and abilities that new hire should have to fill such a critical role can also be difficult to define. As a result, organizations become stagnant on the data collection and analysis front.
A New, Alternative Approach to Implementing Organizational Performance Measurement
Organizations do not have to choose between sacrificing the many benefits that come with having a high-performance measurement culture and stagnation as a result of these challenges. Leaders can choose to outsource performance measurement services, not unlike more routinely outsourced services such as accounting and IT.
When Pathlight Home President and CEO, Helaine Blum, Esq., first partnered with Measurement Resources Company in 2012, the team set out to develop a framework and logic model for measuring the organization’s impact across its three programs designed to address chronic homelessness in Orlando, Florida.
“As an organization that provides permanent and supportive housing for individuals experiencing homelessness,” said Helaine Blum, “We wanted to better understand to what degree our programs were meeting our mission goals. We wanted more than a simple headcount.”
Then in 2014, Pathlight launched two social enterprises: a café to provide job training and income to individuals experiencing homelessness and students, as well as a banquet space for events. In addition to measuring the impact of Pathlight’s three programs, Measurement Resources also helped the organization identify ways to track the impact of these social enterprises. But two months after creating these tracking mechanisms, Helaine quickly realized that the organization simply did not have the resources to implement this tracking.
To address the need that Pathlight was experiencing, Measurement Resources Company launched a new program that allows organizations to outsource high-performance measurement services on a regular basis. For a fraction of the cost required to hire a full-time analyst, clients can now have access to a dedicated team of highly qualified professionals, who consistently provide reporting, feedback, and guidance for continued application of key performance and outcome data.
“We know that measurement is a very important piece,” said Helaine Blum. “And we could not accomplish this without Measurement Resources; it is very affordable from our standpoint. We will use this data to determine which programs are effective, so that we can replicate and build on this success to advance our mission.”
From recurring sessions for reviewing and interpreting performance measurement results to helping organizations use data to continuously evolve and improve the quality of their programs, this service allows social sector professionals to fully focus on capitalizing on their core competencies to deliver on their mission. And, MRC’s professionals can also help hold leadership teams more accountable by bringing unbiased perspective, and they can help ensure that the right data is used to generate the most value possible.
“We have gone from ‘what we think is working’ to ‘what we know is working,’” said Helaine Blum. “And this will help us make the most use of our resources going forward.”