Charities that want to evaluate how well they’re carrying out their missions have a new tool at their disposal.
PerformWell, a Web site more than two years in the making, is designed to help social-service groups collect and analyze real-time data to help them improve programs and measure their impact. The site provides a detailed introduction to performance management and offers performance indicators, questionnaires, and other tools charities can use in their measurement efforts.
The site is a project of Child Trends, a nonprofit research organization; Social Solutions, a company that provides assessment software; and the Urban Institute’s Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy
“When you think about the people who are providing programs for children, families, adults, they get up in the morning to help people,” says Kristin Anderson Moore, a senior scholar at Child Trends. “They do not get up in the morning to do data collection.”
Making Tools Available
The site aims to make the management of performance evaluation easier by employing useful tools, in many cases developed by scholars, that until now have not been easily available.
Research on mentoring programs, for example, has found that a factor important to overall results is that young people feel they have a good relationship with their mentors. PerformWell offers questionnaires that can be used to assess the quality of such relationships.
“It’s about driving people to the tools that they can put in practice,” says Stephen Butz, chief executive of Social Solutions.
While the most important reason for charities to focus on performance management is to improve programs, organizations are also under increasing pressure from foundations, donors, and government agencies to document their outcomes, says Mary K. Winkler, senior research associate at the Center for Nonprofits and Philanthropy.
“People want to weed out who are the high performers and who are not,” says Ms. Winkler. “Those groups that cannot produce information that’s credible may not survive five to 10 years from now.”