I’ve found that many nonprofit staff members find it difficult to explain how they know their programs are successful. They can communicate what their programs are supposed to do, quote positive feedback from clients, and share personal observations that allow them to assume their programs are successful. Many can’t, however, provide data to support whether or not their programs actually do what they say they do.
Data is important! Yes, client satisfaction is important too, but satisfaction only measures a small part of program success. You need clear data that speaks to actual program results – data that demonstrates program value and community impact. Data showing program success can provide support for funding your program, highlight the unique value of your program to potential clients and donors, and demonstrate how your organization is making a difference in the community. Here are five simple steps to measure program success:
- Define success. You can’t determine whether or not you are successful until you know what success looks like. Identify specific outcomes, which are the desired results you want to see happen. These are the things you will measure.
- Determine how you are going to collect information. Think about how you can easily collect data from program participants and what tools you will use. For examples, surveys are a very common form of data collection and are easy to manage.
- Ask the right questions. I’ve heard many people say they tried to gather information from program participants but the results didn’t provide value. This is because the wrong questions were being asked! Ask questions directly related to the information you want to know (i.e., the intended program outcomes).
- Summarize and review the data. Once you collect the information, compile and review it in a timely manner. Share the results with staff and volunteers involved with the program. Debrief together to identify what worked well and what can be improved.
- Use and communicate the results to your benefit. Now that you have all this great information, make sure to use it to advance your program and organization! Communicate your success to donors, volunteers, and potential clients.
It’s that simple – really! And once you start following these steps, they will become second nature in your work so you will always be able to say, “Let me tell you how I know my programs are successful!” Jene Kapela, Ed.D. Do you need help measuring the success of your programs and demonstrating their value? Contact Jene at email@example.com.