You may have heard the saying, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
Having visibility of your program outcomes is a great way to learn what is working and what isn’t. Armed with this information, you learn how to continue refining your programs for maximum impact, as opposed to treading blind.
As you start to see valuable outcomes data coming in, through the great work that you and your staff have done in setting up your measurement project, take a pause and reflect upon how your organization will be putting this data into good use.
In this article, I will summarise the different ways that you can use your outcome findings to be more for the people whom you serve.
There are internal and external uses of outcome findings
By being able to prove that you are delivering outcomes or, if you are not delivering outcomes, that you are taking steps to learn what is wrong in order to improve; you are well on the way to building significant stakeholder trust.
There are both internal and external uses of outcome findings.
Internal uses include:
- Building beneficiary trust – beneficiaries will provide one of the most illuminating insights into how effective a program has been, and they are more likely to provide feedback (not just feedback, but honest feedback) if they are aware that their inputs will be put to good use and not used against them. Sharing your outcome findings with beneficiaries closes the feedback loop and builds trust.
- Provide direction for staff – giving your staff a sense of visibility into the outcomes of their work will empower them and give them a sense of purpose.
- Spotlight program issues and improve program design – not all measurement projects result in a positive upward trending report. Some measurement projects may reveal that a program is simply not delivering its intended outcomes or worse, doing more harm than good. Your outcome findings can help address issues with your program before it is too late.
- Support internal planning and resource allocation – you wouldn’t want to continue allocating scant resources towards an initiative that simply isn’t delivering its intended outcomes. Therefore, use your outcome findings as a basis for making evidence-based decisions as to where to direct funding and resources.
- Suggest benchmark targets for future program performance – not dissimilar to measuring the monthly, quarterly or annual financial performance of a business, continuously tracking your program outcomes paves the way for performance benchmarking, and makes sure that your program is operating at an acceptable standard. Your Board and leadership team will also value these insights as it provides much needed transparency and governance.
External uses include:
- Identify other agencies / partners for collaboration – having tangible outcome metrics and findings provide a framework for discussion with strategic partners and other service agencies who may also be working towards similar outcomes, paving the way for partnership opportunities.
- Enhance organizational credibility and reputation – an organization is more likely to earn a credible reputation from the sector, external donors, funders, and more broadly the general public, if it was transparent about its outcome findings. Sharing its outcome findings allows the organization to showcase a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
- Retain and increase funding opportunities – as our societies move towards being more socially conscious, funders are starting to make funding decisions based on outcome merit rather than outputs. Sharing your outcomes journey and reports will demonstrate to your pool of available funders that you have every intention of making evidence-based decisions on how and where their money will be spent rather than going on gut feel.
Outcome reports are valuable assets for organizations that exist for a particular social mission or cause.
They provide insights into what is working and what isn’t, and serve as a compass on how you can be more for the people and communities that you serve.
Getting to the reporting stage of your outcomes measurement journey is incredibly fulfilling and rewarding, so whether you are just starting out on your outcomes journey or are mid-way through, know that the end result will have a tremendous impact.