What Funders Want: Outcomes 101 for the Frontline Fundraiser

April 28, 2017 Annie Rhodes

This article was originally published on npENGAGE

The world of philanthropy is transforming to results-focused giving. Tracking and measuring outcomes is no longer a nice to have or a buzzword, it is now imperative for fundraisers to embrace and communicate their organizations’ outcomes and results in order to stand out when competing for dollars and resources.

What Funders and Fundraisers Are Teaching Us About Outcomes

We have been learning from both front line fundraisers and the organizations that fund them that stating intended outcomes in your pitch conversations and in your grant applications is becoming increasingly important so that funders can clearly see what specific results your organization is driving towards. Outcomes help us all show progress towards our missions, and help us align our expectations with our partners, staff, and stakeholders. Outcomes measurement lets us see trend data to help guide our areas of focus, focus our programs on specific, desired results, and drive us towards our missions. And ultimately, outcomes can help guide future decision-making for your organization.

Furthermore, communicating your intended outcomes and sharing your results can help you tell your impact story. Take for example SEFCU, a corporate funder looking at each grant they make as an investment in the communities they serve. SEFCU asks themselves if the nonprofits that apply for their funding align with SEFCUs mission and intended results. They then look to understand what specific outcomes these applicants are looking to achieve outside of the ones on the areas they align.  This is where the organizations that they fund are educating them as a funder.

Funders use outcomes data to drive their own decision-making, including data from previous grants and from the sector as a whole, to guide their grantmaking. Funders like to understand previous results achieved before they invest in a project or program, and and as a nonprofit, you can educate them about your approach and the impact you’re achieving.

How fundraisers on the front lines can embrace outcomes:

  • Identify what outcomes align to your mission, and encourage all parts of your organization to drive towards those outcomes so that you can achieve greater impact
  • Communicate your mission & outcomes in grant proposals, donor communications and on your website so that everyone in your ecosystem is aware of what you’re driving toward
  • Partner with other like-minded organizations to drive your intended impact forward even more rather than staying in a silo
  • Review  often your progress toward those outcomes, and learn from your successes and challenges

What’s Next for Outcomes Measurement?

We often ask ourselves and the social good organizations that we support, “what’s next for outcomes?” And we’ve heard a few common themes rise to the top, including the need for cross-sector alignment on language for outcomes measurements, a need for increased transparency and data sharing, and a need for increased partnerships and cross-sector collaboration. We also have heard a lot of buzz about the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) ) and how funders and nonprofits are looking to align to that larger effort.  The only way to achieve the SDGs is through sharing data and lessons learned, and collaborating to solve the whole of a problem by addressing all determinants, not just one piece.  We often say do more better, however when applied to the philanthropic sector, we try to support doing more better together because together we can have a monumental impact.

If you’re attending AFP – be sure to join Annie Rhodes and Rachel Hutchisson at their session: What Funders Want 2.0: Outcomes for the Frontline Fundraiser,  Sunday, April 30 – 10:00 am – 11:15 

This post was written in collaboration with Sally Ehrenfried


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