How do you measure up? Outcomes measurement is lacking in NFPs

During a recent guest lecture for the QUT Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies, I suggested Australian non-profit organisations do not spend near enough time measuring to outcomes. Program staff and fundraisers are equally guilty of this fact. This might be painting the non-profit community with a broad brush, but I truly believe most organisations do not measure and their analyse programs. I believe most staff go through the motions of program management and/or fundraising, but do not take the time to measure and analyse the outcomes in order to make educated decisions as to whether to:

  • Continue the programs or fundraising as they exist.
  • Make further investments or increased investments in the programs or the fundraising activity.
  • Decrease funding of programs or fundraising activities.
  • Eliminate programs or fundraising activities.

Instead, staff are making decisions not on data, but on “gut feel’ for programs or for fundraising activity.

Why is there little measurement occurring on the program side of NFPs? The following reasons come to mind:

  • Lack of unified metrics across our sector.
    • Our sector has spent little or no time determining what we ought to measure.
  • Lack of knowledge of metrics.
    • Staff of NFPs lack the knowledge of metrics and, therefore, the data to measure.
  • Lack of tools to measure and report.
    • CRMs, alone, cannot be relied on as tools to measure outcomes.
  • Lack of time and/or energy to report and analyse.
    • Staff put this in the “too hard” basket rather than tackle the issue.

Isn’t it time we as a sector work together to come up with common metrics? Also, isn’t it time we explore and embrace some tools in the market that actually assist us to measure and analyse our programs? Perhaps then we can cut out activity which is not working; further invest in activity which is outperforming expectations; and develop new areas for programs and/or funding?