If its not easy it’s going to fail.
How could you not want to sink back in your seat with a huge sigh of relief after hearing that?
I feel less angst ridden already!
Many thanks to Con Edison for hosting the Power of Giving Forum on Social Impact Measurement
. As one of their grantees, I really appreciate their understanding of their partners in the nonprofit world and their support of the work we do. Measurement, metrics, matrix… these have always been words that cause me mild levels of panic or worry, always stressful, never good for your skin.
I slipped into the back of the cavernous conference room, right on time, right next to the coffee set up.
My logic model dictates proximity to caffeine as an indisputable influencer of key performance indicators. If you have no idea what that means, don’t worry. I will explain.
The presentation entitled Measurement Principles: What, How and When was given by Farron Levy, the President of True Impact
, a consulting firm that measures the impact of social investment of large corporations and non profits. He demystified the spectre of data by walking us through a simplified and easily digestible framework that we could use for our individual programs. We learned how goals, objectives, strategies and metrics can align to create more successful programs and robust bottom lines.
Here are my takeaways from this all day convening
We have to sell the story of what we do to remind our funders of our value, our brand. Remember, they actually need us to help them do community work. Measurements can help expand these relationships and increase the perception of your value. In addition to inputs and outputs, the best often measure outcomes like beneficiaries served, employee satisfactions, impressions. Outcomes are the key to proving and improving value. Measurement can help to prove value of your programs, to improve effective management, to tell your cost per outcome story in an neat soundbyte i.e. “2K per victim to achieve safety”.
What Are Bottom Line Outcome Measures?
Revenues – # of customers, funders, units, prices
Costs – salaries, staff, materials, time, expenses
Social Value – change in social condition, market value of goods and services
Where do you start?
Here are three important things to do:
1. Focus On The Bottom Line
Through a business lens, you would do two things –
Increase revenue – number of customers, funders
Reduce cost – skills, training, retention
Through a social lens, you would –
Promote social value – intervention in a social area to change a social condition
Standard performance metrics are rarely defined. If you define the qualitative outcome or change in social condition, this becomes the primary unit you can count.
Corporations and nonprofits measure money and time value invested by asking:
How many people are served? Say 1,000 are served, but how many have achieved a defined social value?
How many media impressions have been achieved? Say 1,000,000, but how many have changed awareness and attitudes that influence their
behavior as customers or potential hires?
Define these outcomes that are resulting improvements because of interventions.
Once defined, you can count them as units of behavioral change.
OK, here’s another thing Farron said that made me feel better:
2. Use Proxy Data
No one does it perfectly.
Let’s say you want to pitch an investment of $150000 and to reach 1000 people. How are you going to convince a funder this is a good investment?
What is success? What is the social impact?
Do a sampling as representative to base an estimate of greater population.
You can use proxy data when necessary to support your case. You can sample your field, past results if you have them or other similar credible studies.
Science, the EPA, government and education organizations do this. Businesses can cite prior histories and estimate. You can go to the most knowledgeable person for an educated guess and plan to go forward to drill deeper. The key is to be transparent and cite your sources.
How do you measure the social value outcome of a student scholarship where the effects may happen years in the future?
Frame forecast so the immediate outcome is that kids get scholarships to go to school. Proxy data from a credible source, such as the Department of Education, can be used to show that this changes lives from the intervention point of the scholarship through the ripple effect of higher earnings and quality of life.
Need another cup of coffee… need to run on the beach
3. Do This Right Now
Plan upfront to integrate measurement.
You just had your annual gala and you are scratching your head wondering if there are any prospective funders, customers on your guest list? Instead of prospecting after the event is over, you could add a line on the registration form that gives you connection data for the future.
Ask yourself, what are the impacts you care about that you could capture in regular practices?
Focus on bottom line
Use proxy data
Do this right now
Do I think I can do this?
Well, I am going to give it my very best shot and release my inner data diva.
I do have a lot of questions as did the rest of the audience at the end of his presentation.
The question from the audience that I liked the most was this one:
Where does failure fit into this model? Risk? How do you present this to sponsors honestly?
This is an important point. Funders need to be educated and to know that this is part of an improvement process over time.
We have a theory of change, interact and anticipate and monitor. By measuring, we can intervene, improve rack when success and failure occur and make adjustments accordingly.
Present this concept to funder as well thought out, honest and transparent in creating common value. The key is to educate funders that continuous improvement is success and an empowering concept.