5 New Year’s Resolutions About Nonprofit Measurement

I was recently talking with my colleague Jason Saul about how 2014 was a big year for the social sector. We discussed how there was a higher level of discourse around corporations making a business case for “doing good,” renewed excitement about improving government with bipartisan legislation for social impact bonds hitting Washington , and overwhelming interest in supporting a nonprofit cause as the ice-bucket challenge went viral.

As we enter 2015, we’re more excited than ever for what the …


The Ups and Downs of Charity at the Checkout Counter

checkoutcharitywebWould you like to contribute $1 to education? $5 to eradicate cancer? $10 to support homeless pets? Questions like these are an increasingly common part of the retail experience for shoppers who get hit up for donations at cash registers across the land. And this season there seem to be more “checkout charity” campaigns than ever.

Reuters recently asked me to comment on this phenomenon, asking if I thought these campaigns worked.  I said my organization’s research indicates that, in general, che…


4 Ways to Win Over Year-End Donors

yearend4Whether it is the spirit of the holidays or a personal squaring of accounts ahead of tax season that drives donations, nearly a quarter of household charitable giving happens between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, according to a study by Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.

So during this opportune time for giving, how can your organization secure funding by persuading donors that it best meets the needs they care about most?

First, it is important that donations be considered…


A Simple Tool to Show How You Are Measuring Progress

I’ve recently written blog posts regarding the importance of outcomes measurement and offering some advice on how to approach the measurement process. For organizations that have embraced outcomes measurement, the next step is to develop a framework for tracking progress and demonstrating impact.

To do this, you’ll need a simple format that you can either use internally or to present to grant makers, donors, and others interested in your organization. It should showcase the way you measure wha…


4 Tips for Measuring Outcomes Instead of Activities

woodenrulersIn my last post, I wrote about why it’s important for nonprofits to measure outcomes rather than activities. I was excited to see that the post sparked a discussion, but I also noticed that folks were unsure just how to go about measuring outcomes.  So here are a few tips.

In more than 20 years of working with nonprofits, I’ve found that one of the most common frustrations is how to make use of limited resources to conduct evaluations that show an organization’s impact and meet grant makers…


Stop Measuring Activities and Start Measuring Outcomes

In my 20-plus years working in the nonprofit world, one of the most common mistakes I’ve seen nonprofits make is measuring activities instead of outcomes. I understand why: Measuring activities is easier, and nonprofits have limited time to dedicate to measurement. But measuring activities isn’t going to help nonprofits demonstrate their value and secure more funds.

When groups measure program efforts—teaching, training, negotiating, feeding, researching, and so on—they’re measuring activi…


How to Predict the Success of a Nonprofit Program Before It Starts

One of the greatest challenges facing nonprofits is proving how effective they are. To determine which social programs are making the most progress toward tackling critical social issues, most groups rely on inconsistent reports, cursory impressions, “brands,” or even politics. But there is a better way.

Measuring how much it costs to produce a single “unit” of impact, called “cost per outcome,” can tell with a high probability whether a nonprofit program will work. This method can save …


Volunteers Need to Benefit From Their Charitable Work

TMany donors are figuring how to use their time and money to make a difference for themselves while making a difference to a nonprofit. And that’s a really good thing for nonprofits.

Several studies over the past few years have shown that individuals who volunteer give more money than those who do not volunteer, making it all the more important to look at how people give their time as carefully as how we look at how they give their money.

Traditionally, nonprofits have tried to convince people to…


Someone May Have Already Paid for Your Program Evaluation

One of the most common challenges facing nonprofits is meeting the expectations of grant makers that demand comprehensive impact evaluations, often without providing adequate resources to conduct those evaluations.

But even given adequate funds and the support of an external evaluator, impact evaluations can place a substantial burden on already-stretched organizational leaders and program staff.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

First, despite grants that call for  “demonstrating impact,” ma…


How to Impress Donors With Your Programs in a Tough Economy

In the past few years, measurement has quickly evolved from a “nice to have” to a “must have” for nonprofits. Government agencies, foundations, and private donors have been demanding answers to the question: Did that program make a difference?

In times of financial turmoil, government funds for nonprofit work are particularly scarce, and we expect continued belt-tightening in the coming months. Domestic discretionary spending is slated to be cut by 5.3 percent this year, and the Congressional Bu…