This week, I wanted to share a quick nugget that came from conversations I’ve had over the past week with staff members at three foundations about a pilot nonprofit program that’s planning to launch soon. 

While the conversations differed, there was one question that each person asked: 

What’s the ultimate outcome of this program?

If you’ve worked with me before, you can probably guess that this question brought me a lot of joy. That’s because I ask a similar question when working with nonprofit leaders. 

When I ask about outcomes, I’m not referring to things like the number of workshops held or the number of people who attended said workshops. Those are activities and while it’s important to measure and report them, they are not sufficient. 

Ultimately, you should always ask yourself: 

  1. Does this program lead to changes in knowledge, behaviors, and skills? 
  2. Did those changes lead to improved quality of life? 

Those are outcomes and you must have a process for collecting, analyzing, and reporting the data about them. (And, yes, you can do this even if your nonprofit is only a few years old.) 

And, look, I know it can be hard to stay focused on outcomes because activities take up so much of your time. But, I strongly encourage you to take a moment and see the forest for the trees. 

Oh, and one more thing. Outcomes aren’t important just because a funder asked for them. 🙂  

Nonprofits are in the business of changing lives and outcomes tell you if you’re doing that.