Back to Blog

How Can Nonprofits Measure Success and Impact?

How do you know if your nonprofit is making an impact—if your mission is a success? The answer to this question affects everything about your organization, from day-to-day operations to the success of your fundraising efforts.

The National Council of Nonprofits alludes to five actions:

  1. Identify what success looks like to you.
  2. Make a plan to achieve that success.
  3. Collect information along the way to evaluate performance.
  4. Communicate what you’re learning.
  5. Use lessons learned to continuously improve performance.

Together, these steps are known as “outcomes measurement,” “performance management,” or “evaluation.”

The Council further recommends reading Leap of Reason, a book that explains the responsibility nonprofits have to those who are served to be as effective as possible. Leap of Reason points out that measuring outcomes is about more than just attracting resources to your nonprofit; it’s about the mission. Only by evaluating performance can you know if you’re helping individuals, solving problems in the community, or protecting the environment, for example. In addition, you need to identify and communicate that impact to donors, who want to know their giving is making a positive difference.

Resources for evaluating performance & measuring outcomes

There are several ways to measure performance: engage in formal evaluation, monitor progress toward specific goals, and use feedback loops to learn what is or isn’t working. Whatever method makes the most sense for your nonprofit, the Council has identified several resources to help you effectively deliver your nonprofit’s program and services, as well as advance its mission.

Tools

Resources

Measuring success with technology

A memorable line in the first chapter of Leap of Reason reads: “‘We’re lost, but at least we are making great time’ approach to nonprofit impact doesn’t work.” As George Weiner, founder and CEO of Whole Whale says, “This quote captures what many organizations with the best intentions may actually be doing: driving quickly toward an undefined destination. Driving quickly in the wrong direction, or to translate, errant hard work can quickly take you off course and worse be wasteful or even detrimental to the cause.”

So, know where you’re going. Once you’ve decided what success means to your nonprofit, rely on technology to help you evaluate performance and measure outcomes. Cloud-based fund accounting solutions such as Sage Intacct automates tracking and reporting of outcomes and performance metrics. Plus, point-and-click functionality makes reporting quick and easy, and dynamic dashboards provide real-time visibility so you know immediately how you’re doing. Start your journey to success by contacting the nonprofit financial management solution experts at JMT Consulting today.

 

Related Posts:
Nonprofit IT: How to Get Your Finance Department to the Cloud
August 15, 2017
Nonprofit IT: How to Get Your Finance Department to the Cloud

If you’re an IT Director or CIO at a nonprofit organization, you may be experiencing something that sounds a little like this: In the last few years, you have moved a lot of systems from your internal network servers. Your Development department has migrated to a cloud-based donor management system like Salesforce. Your Program people…

CancerCare – Connecting Anyone Affected by Cancer With Help and Hope
March 30, 2020
CancerCare – Connecting Anyone Affected by Cancer With Help and Hope

There are over 1.5 million nonprofits in America, and all of them do important work. In such a crowded field, however, some organizations have a more significant imprint than others. CancerCare is a great example. The organization celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2019. As every nonprofit knows, sustaining the mission for year after year is…

Cloud vs. Traditional Fund Accounting Software: Comparing the True Costs
January 17, 2018
Cloud vs. Traditional Fund Accounting Software: Comparing the True Costs

In the good old days, comparing the cost between different financial management solutions was fairly straightforward. They were built on similar technology platforms and were going to be deployed in roughly the same fashion. The only considerations were subtle differences in system requirements and pricing. The advent of subscription-based (SaaS) cloud applications for fund accounting…

Get a View into Your Nonprofit’s Outcomes with Dashboards
February 26, 2018
Get a View into Your Nonprofit’s Outcomes with Dashboards

Dashboards provide a window into your organization’s performance and financial health. With the increased emphasis on outcomes—defined as a change in skill, knowledge, attitude, behavior, condition, or status—nonprofits must demonstrate the progress of those outcomes in a visual, understandable way. An article in Nonprofit Quarterly notes that a dashboard must: Align definitions of success across…

 Back to Blog