Impact metrics – Help wanted

Funders should help equip nonprofits measure the impact of their services in the face of growing expectations by foundations and constituents for such assessments, a new report says.

“The capacity to perform reasonably valid outcome measurement, especially for following up on clients after they have left services, remains a major issue for many private nonprofit service organizations,” says the report prepared The Urban Institute for Independent Sector, a nonprofit trade group.

Few nonprofits have had much training in measuring outcomes, analyzing outcome data or using the results to improve their services, says the report,  “Outcome Measurement in Nonprofit Organizations: Current Practices and Recommendations.”

Nonprofits, particularly smaller ones, can do a better job measuring the impact of their work with technical assistance or funding from national associations, local community foundations and local government, the report says.

“Funders of nonprofit organizations should promote outcome measurement by the organizations they fund,” the report says.

It also says that funders can “promote agency accountability by asking – or even requiring – that organizations they support provide outcome information to the funder and to the public.”

The report, based phone interviews and a review of documents of 36 organizations, includes findings on how those groups are assessing the impact of their services, along with recommendations on how nonprofits can do a better job of measuring outcomes.

For an executive summary of the report, go to Independent Sector.

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