What is your organization’s impact?
This is a question that every nonprofit should be able to answer. After all, that’s why you started your organization: to change lives and make an impact in your community. And the surefire way to know if you’re making an impact is to create a system for collecting and analyzing data, making sense of the data, and then communicating your results. In other words, your team needs the capacity to engage in program evaluation.
However, many nonprofit leaders are resistant to the idea of program evaluation, and oftentimes the resistance is rooted in a few myths.
We don’t have time for program evaluation.
Being the leader of a small or medium nonprofit is a LOT of work. You’re responsible for running the program(s), raising money, managing staff/volunteers… the list goes on and on. However, making time to ensure your program is improving is not extra work. It actually helps you do your work better. When you have a clear system for collecting and analyzing data, making strategic decisions rooted in data, and communicating your results… you wind up saving time. And I know you can use more time.
We can’t afford to hire a program evaluator.
It is true that hiring a program evaluator can cost at least $20,000. However, for small to mid-size nonprofits, you may not need that level of support and detail. If you’re just getting started with creating a measurement and evaluation system, it is entirely possible to do so own your own. (If you need support, check out my book, The Nonprofit Manager’s Data Playbook.)
We don’t need to collect data. My instincts tell me that our organization is successful.
This myth is one of the hardest to break because as a nonprofit leader, you are in the work and can see for yourself that you’re making an impact. You see people make a complete 180 degree turn and people tell you how much their program has impacted their lives. After all, seeing and hearing these things is what keeps you motivated each day. But, the truth is, that you can’t rely on your gut instincts. What separates good nonprofits from great ones is that they have concrete data that tells them what’s working, what’s not, so they know what to keep doing and where they need to pivot.
We don’t have the resources to invest in creating a system for data collection.
Data collection systems can cost a ton of money and take a great deal of time to set up. And sometimes even after all the time and financial investment, you still don’t have useful data. But, it doesn’t have to be that way. You and your leadership can decide on which metrics are most meaningful for your organization and build a data collection system that works with what you’re already doing. Combine those with free and low cost tools and you’re good to go! If you need help with creating a system, check out my Data Strategy Workshop and book a consult to see if it’s a good for your organization.