• Alec Green

How to Measure the Impact of Your Nonprofit’s Programs

Implementing a new nonprofit program is exciting. There's a sense of possibility and hope that comes with starting something new. But as any nonprofit executive director or program manager knows, it's important to temper that excitement with a healthy dose of realism. After all, not every new program is going to be a success. That's why it's so important to measure the impact of nonprofit programs—both before and after they're up and running. But what, exactly, should you be measuring? How often? And how can you ensure that your measurements are accurate? Thanks to our friends at Keela, we have a new free guide with six steps to help you easily and effectively measure the impact of your nonprofit programs.



1. Identify your organization’s vision and mission


The first step on your impact management journey is identifying the problem you're trying to solve and what makes it important. Your vision or mission should state why your nonprofit exists, not just the type of work you do or the people you serve.


2. Create a logic model


What inputs (resources you will need) will drive the outputs (activities, projects, work) to produce desired outcomes (the desired impact or result of your outputs).


3. Develop a data management strategy


Once you have your logic model in place, you need to figure out who in the organization will measure your impact, outputs, and outcomes, what resources they will require to measure impact for the duration of the program, and what platform you will use to collect and organize all data.


4. Create key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure and report on your progress


KPIs are essential for evaluating the health and performance of any business. And in nonprofit programs, having quantifiable KPIs tied to your inputs, outputs, and outcomes is essential to measuring impact. Gain agreement on KPIs before the project beings to ensure everyone is aligned on what success will look like for your project.


5. Understand when and how to measure and analyze your data


Many nonprofits wait until the project is over to begin data measurement. By having solid KPIs in place and analyzing your data throughout the program cycle, you’ll have a better chance of staying on budget and being able to make critical adjustments before it is too late.


6. Create an impact report


The impact management journey is not complete until you have reported on your impact. The impact report shares the goals of your program to all stakeholders and clearly shows how the specific activities within your program yielded the desired impact for the community you serve. If you followed all the steps above, producing the final impact report should be relatively straightforward.


Tip: This is a quick summary of the nonprofit impact management framework. For a more comprehensive overview, check out Keela’s Guide to Impact Measurement (for free) on Nonprofitready.org.

How to measure the impact of nonprofit programs might seem like a dry topic, but it's actually vitally important to the success of any nonprofit organization. Without good data on what works and what doesn't, it's impossible to know whether or not you're making a real difference in the world. And without knowing that, it becomes all too easy to fall into the trap of doing things just because that's always how they've been done—even if there's no evidence that they're effective. So take some time to think about how you measure the impact of your nonprofit programs today. Do you have a logic model in place? How comprehensive is your data management strategy? Do you have clear KPIs for each stage of the program lifecycle? If you want to improve your nonprofit program management, check out all the free courses available in NonprofitReady.org.


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