Embracing the Point of Impact Together: Outcomes Measurement Tips for Funders and Nonprofits

April 11, 2017 Michelle DiSabato

This article was originally published on npENGAGE

One of the most exciting parts of 2017 for me so far has been to see how many nonprofit organizations  and foundations are becoming more and more passionate about outcomes measurement. My colleagues and I have talked at length about how social good organizations have reached a point of impact – a point in the giving sector’s evolution where organizations are shifting their giving mindset from, “look how much we gave” to “look at what our grant achieved.” I see firsthand each day that this trend is seriously catching on.

Of course, we understand that getting from point A to point B isn’t that simple. Each organization is on what we like to call an outcomes journey, where results-focused givers are moving from basic outcomes measurement to a strategic and integrated approach. This isn’t a “flip a switch” kind of change. And this got me thinking, how can we ensure that organizations don’t feel like they’re facing this outcomes measurement  journey alone?

While it’s true that each social good organization has its own unique starting point when it comes to deepening its approach to tracking and measuring outcomes and impact, this is a journey best taken together. Just as one person or organization doesn’t own 100 percent of the work of creating social change, the measurement of the effects of that work should be a collaborative effort.

Outcomes Measurement Tips for Funders

On the funder side, it means structuring your programs and thinking toward funding outcomes and change, not organizations or individuals. This means asking new questions and creating a deeper dialogue with your nonprofit and other partners to get the full picture of your impact. This may even include bringing your partners to the table early and often to take a collaborative approach to sharing and analyzing progress and results to guide the next wave of action.

Empowered, results-focused funders:

  • Ask outcomes-centric questions like, “What will be different and better because of our funding?”
  • Know the outcomes they want to monitor and track, and invest in grantees that prove they can achieve progress toward these results
  • Embrace collaboration to fuel greater outcomes tracking and measurement across all partners and participants in achieving change

However, it’s important to remember that funders don’t “own” outcomes measurement and cannot achieve success unless their nonprofit partners are able to capture and share results data, too.

Outcomes Measurement Tips for Nonprofits

On the nonprofit side, this means communicating progress about changes in behavior or situations because of your work instead of simply focusing on metrics like numbers served or reporting activities and actions taken. This means redefining your organization as an accountable impact achiever rather than solely a service provider. And by speaking the same language as your funders and other partners, we are all taking a collective, clear approach to achieving outcomes and documenting progress toward results.

Empowered, results-focused nonprofits:

  • Ask outcomes-centric questions like, “What is changing for those we serve as a result of our programs?”
  • Seek to demonstrate proof of results and positive change to attract funding and partnerships
  • Know they bring valuable perspective and learnings to the table to develop a collective view of progress toward outcomes

Outcomes measurement is a major shift in the social good space, and offers an amazing opportunity for funders, nonprofits and other change-makers to truly collaborate on achieving results. When you consider where your organization is on your outcomes maturity journey, take this idea one step further and connect with your partners to see where they are as well. You may find that sharing the journey to greater outcomes measurement maturity could be the ultimate “rising tides lift all boats” story for the social good sector. And when we elevate each other, we can elevate our shared impact.

How are you and your partners approaching outcomes measurement today? Drop me a line to share your story.


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