Nonprofits Share What Matters and What’s Measured

Guest Post by Adrian Bordone
Adrian is Vice President, Strategic Partnerships for GuideStar. Before joining GuideStar, Adrian co-founded Social Solutions, establishing the sector as a marketplace committed to using data to generate intelligence that improved results for individuals, families and communities. He thanks Jasmine Marrow and Whitney Brooks for their analysis of Platinum’s first weeks.

Next month, I’ll be at the Mission Capital conference to discuss “Measuring What Matters: How Funders and Nonprofits Are Leveraging Data.” Of course, before you can measure what matters, you have to know what matters. The good news is that we can often agree about “what matters” in the lives of the individuals, families, and communities we serve.  When we talk about “measuring” what matters, however, we find out very quickly that the devil is in the details. Precision and accuracy are needed to lend credibility to measuring the success of our efforts.

GuideStar’s new initiative, GuideStar Platinum, is beginning to gather revealing information about “what matters” and “what’s measured” by individual nonprofit organizations. We believe this data helps everyone connected with nonprofits, from donors to nonprofit leaders. As we like to say, “Better data, better decisions, better world.”

Early Lessons from Performance Metrics

We launched GuideStar Platinum on May 11, 2016. Since then, more than 750 organizations have published metrics in their profiles. Here’s what we’re seeing so far. Nonprofits can either select metrics from our Common Results Catalog or upload their own. Some 72 percent of the metrics published so far are from the catalog. In descending order, the top 10 are:

  • Number of volunteers
  • Number of clients served
  • Number of overall donors
  • Total dollar amount of grants awarded
  • Total number of grants awarded
  • Number of animal adoptions
  • Average number of service recipients per month
  • Number of students enrolled
  • Number of clients participating in educational programs
  • Number of animals rescued

The top themes of the custom metrics are:

  • Domestic animal services
  • Meals/hunger
  • Monetary and volunteer support received
  • Human services

Language, Outputs and Outcomes

Although these are preliminary results, we’re building a common language for nonprofit measurement. Right now, that results language includes both outputs—the direct products and services delivered as a result of a nonprofit’s activities—and outcomes—the changes for beneficiaries that nonprofits are effecting. We contend that measuring outputs is an important first step toward measuring outcomes. As more nonprofits add metrics to their profiles, we’ll continue to share what we learn.

Don’t miss Adrian’s session on Thursday, 9/8 at the Mission Capital Conference!

Measuring What Matters: How Funders and Nonprofits are Leveraging Data
Join the national conversation about the role data can play in understanding and achieving ultimate impact with panelists who bring unique perspectives on data and measurement. This interactive panel discussion will share reflections and invite dialogue on promising new measurement practices and the use of technology. Learn how to get funders and nonprofits on the same page about measuring what counts, not just what’s easy to measure.

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