How Will Tracking Outcomes Help Your Organization's Story?

February 26, 2016 Michelle DiSabato

This article was originally published on npENGAGE.

Back in my days as a Corporate Funder, I was routinely asked to provide giving details for our organization. This information was included in annual reports, presented at Board Meetings, shared with employees or even at monthly departmental meetings.

Our focus was on:

  • Dollars granted
  • Number of grants
  • Geographical location

Despite spending a lot of time and energy to pull it all together, on a good day, this would be the best we could do:

However, as the bar began to be raised and we were increasingly asked “So what?” “What has been achieved for those dollars?” “What is different for those people that our grants support?” our journey to tracking outcomes and results began and we started to ask ourselves tough questions like:

  • Who is different because of our grants and what is different for them?
  • What have we achieved with our cause-related marketing dollars for those in need?
  • How have our employees helped local charities where they live and work do more?

And by asking those questions and looking through the outcomes lens for all of our initiatives, our results story began to demonstrate real impact. Take a look at the story for the same program, now with a new results focus:

How do you change your story and focus on results?

Here’s a list of changes that funders must be willing to undertake:

  • Decide up front what we are trying to achieve with our funding in the areas we support;
  • Including the outcomes or changes of behavior that would occur for those being served;
  • Those changes in behavior need to become our measurements – and need to be stated up front in our guidelines and in our applications;
  • NPO’s should state their anticipated results against those measurements during the application process;
  • Funders need to monitor progress towards results, while ensuring that our new results focus isn’t burdensome for our grantee partners;
  • Leverage programs’ actual results to inform future decision-making and program strategy.

While that can seem like a lot to undertake and change can be difficult for people and organizations, remember to take this at your own pace. Perhaps before implementing across your organization, you can try to pilot in an area that you have control over. Then when you are successful, share your results and watch the rest of your organization join your journey into social impact investing. 

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