Measuring outcomes is complex. You have to understand what you’re working towards, map out activities and programs, define what data you need to collect, then evaluate your long-term impact. It’s resource intensive, but worth every effort. Because when you know what works and what doesn’t you can create programs with meaningful, measurable impact. Here are three ways consultants can help you get clarity and develop an effective impact measurement program.
In our experience, stakeholders and funding bodies want to know the outcomes of programs, not just the outputs. In an increasingly competitive funding environment, demonstrating your programs’ outcomes is essential.
But measuring outcomes is complex. You have to understand what you’re working towards, map out activities and programs, define what data you need to collect, then evaluate your long-term impact. It’s resource intensive, but worth every effort. Because when you know what works and what doesn’t you can create programs with meaningful, measurable impact.
And an outside perspective can be invaluable to getting started effectively.
Here are three ways consultants can help you get clarity and develop an effective impact measurement program.
Your measurement program can't just sit with one person.
The first step to creating an effective, sustainable measurement program is getting everyone in the organization on the same page.
Many non-profits are already collecting data, but often people are not sure what to do with it – wasting invaluable insights that could inform what and how programs are run.
Another common mistake organizations make is assigning responsibility for the program to one person, usually a monitoring and evaluation champion, who drives the initiative. However, in a sector with high turnover, there’s a risk that this person might leave, which will have significant knock-on effects for measurement.
“Your measurement program can't just sit with one person; it should be something that is embedded across the organization,” says Melissa Russell, research associate at Collective Action, a social impact consultancy. “It has to be a part of every team’s day-to-day work, embedded as a core part of the organization. There's no shortcut to that.”
Collective Action helps organizations increase the impact of their programs through effective impact measurement. For them the success of measurement programs starts at buy-in.
“We have a really strong emphasis on engaging the whole organization from the beginning, as a way of generating buy-in – and it’s an ongoing effort. We get the leadership team onboard, but we also speak to individual team members and explain the benefits of a measurement framework.”
When everyone understands and believes in the program, it will become much more effective, efficient and successful.
A measurement framework helps organizations monitor all their programs and bring data together to measure their impact.
It moves non-profits beyond simply collecting data to gathering meaningful information and deriving valuable insights.
“A robust framework helps you define what data you should be collecting, and provides direction on what you need to do with that data – which will validate why you are collecting it in the first place,” says Melissa. “It also helps you understand the spheres within which you can reasonably say to have an impact or make a contribution.”
But this takes time, resources and expertise. Consultants like Collective Action specialize in developing such frameworks, helping non-profits set up effective measurement programs quickly – and getting insights into their impact faster.
Collective Action’s carefully developed Contribution to Change framework provides organizations with a solid starting point, something they can mold to suit their programs. The Contribution to Change Framework was developed in partnership with Meridian (formerly the AIDS Action Council). Meridian is now a leader in impact measurement and regularly receives requests to present to government and non-government stakeholders on impact measurement. The Contribution to Change Framework has since been picked up by A Gender Agenda and WA AIDS Council.
Manually collecting data is arduous and takes up your people’s valuable time. It also creates room for error and inconsistency in how data is collected, stored and analyzed.
Technology is a fast and easy solution to all of these challenges – and an impact consultant can help you find the right solution for you.
“The great thing about technology is once you set it up, it's ongoing and maintains itself in a sense. And you have all the data and reports at your fingertips,” says Melissa.
Socialsuite for instance can collect, monitor, analyze and report on the outcomes of your programs all in one platform.
“Socialsuite allows you to combine data from multiple surveys and time periods. This enables us to get a sense of the accumulative and long-term impact of your organization - which is very hard to do through manual data collection,” Melissa says.
Getting outside help will help get everyone onboard, reduce the pressure on internal resources and set up your measurement program so that it’s efficient, easy to manage and sustainable.