In his 2012 annual letter to grantees, Bill Gates stressed the value of measurement as a critical tool for delivering social impact – in classrooms, clinics and cities. “Setting clear goals and finding measures that will mark progress toward them can improve the human condition,” he said.
It’s a familiar and important refrain and it turns out most of us agree. More than 80% of nonprofit leaders recently surveyed believe that demonstrating impact through performance measurement is a top priority. Yet still, when we get down to evaluating our work, it can feel like a time-sensitive and daunting task that delivers little value.
How, then, do we improve our practice of it? How can we use it to strengthen our programs without overtaxing our organizations?
These are questions we often grapple with at Knight Foundation. At the annual Philanthropy Miami Conference in March, we shared a few simple exercises on how to use evaluation to deliver better programs and promote greater effectiveness within organizations.
A lot of what we shared was drawn from three resources that we’ve found valuable in our work. Each comes at the topic of measurement from a different angle. Together they offer a great starting point on various approaches, techniques and tools for using data to make progress towards your goals.
- Measuring the Networked Nonprofit (Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine) - Provides strategies and step-by-step guides for measuring relationships, social connectivity and engagement in nonprofits.
- Lean Analytics (Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz) – Offers a guide on how to use data to build a better startup, by tracking indicators that help you iterate and understand market needs and user engagement.
- Leap of Reason: Managing to Outcomes in an Era of Scarcity (Mario Morino) – Provides a call to action and a set of case studies that highlight the importance of outcomes-based management in the nonprofit sector.
A few highlights from these resources include: