closelook by Rick Ybarra

 On June 3, I posted on Hogg Blog, Measure Activities or Measure Outcomes? And the Answer is . . . based on Jason Saul’s May 28th piece in The Chronicle of Philanthropy highlighting the difference between activities (or outputs) and outcomes. Well, our friend Jason has upped the ante again with a follow-up blog post from June 16 titled, 4 Tips for Measuring Outcomes Instead of Activities. It sparked some interest from the field. But he noticed some uncertainty on how to go about measuring outcomes. In this follow-up blog post, Jason offers a few tips:

  • Aim at the right outcomes. The “right” outcomes are those you can credibly claim to produce. It must be believable that your organization makes a substantial contribution to producing the outcomes it lays claim to. Got it!
  • Use existing research. We’ve heard and often used, “No need to reinvent the wheel.” Same goes with data.Often you don’t need to start from scratch. Since most nonprofits use strategies that have been implemented or studied, there is a wealth of research available. Check!
  • Consider indirect measurements. He validates that many programs are working toward achieving ambitious outcomes that take a long time to produce and thus, are impractical to measure as a whole. Community-based organizations can demonstrate their impact by utilizing indicators that may not directly measure their outcomes but that help predict how likely an intervention will produce the intended outcomes. Great point!
  • Focus on measuring what matters to funders. The most useful information you can offer your supporters is the expected return on their investment.  Think about how effectively you can produce the outcome that matters to them (the funder). Rather than providing the number of hours students are tutored, retention rates, and volunteer involvement (all activities or outputs), he suggests making a more compelling data-supported case that you are 80 percent likely to produce an intended outcome, like getting students in a promising program to be proficient in math. Makes sense!

Jason closes with that there is no one perfect way to calculate efficacy, but measurement that shows value (outcome/impact) will pay off more than data about activities (outputs). A word to the wise…