At the moment, your organisation may be on a trajectory of growth and success; or you may be just treading water, staying afloat or in neutral and going nowhere; or you may feel like you are on a downward slope with no way out.
Whether you are thriving, surviving, or struggling, do you know the reason why?
These days, more and more organisations are being asked to answer this question and demonstrate the outcomes and total impact of their programs. This pressure comes primarily from funders, who include government sources (federal, state, and local), foundations, corporations, or donors.
To be able to answer this question adequately, you need to understand the importance of outcomes measurement.
This blog will briefly discuss what outcomes measurement is all about and why it is so important to measure outcomes.
The eSeries we have produced will expand on these concepts and give you a very good overview of outcomes measurement, in plain english and in practical terms that are relevant to your work. It is packed with information to start you on your outcomes measurement journey!
WHAT IS OUTCOMES MEASUREMENT?
Outcomes measurement is a strategic process of setting goals and defining strategies to measure performance toward those goals. It explores what your programs and services provide, what their intended outcomes are, and whether or not they have achieved their desired outcomes or results, or if movement towards its achievement has occurred.
Outcomes measurement is therefore used to measure the success of a program, system, activity or event by looking at whether there has been a change in circumstance, situation, skills/knowledge, behavior or attitude. This enables organisations to demonstrate the work that they do with their clients or service users so that you can take steps to improve performance over time. The outcome itself is therefore evidence that your program is making a difference.
Key questions that are typically answered in outcomes measurement include:
- How are the service users better off as a result of their participation in your program/service?
- What has changed in the lives of your service users and/or the wider community as a result of your programs or services?
- Has the program or service made a difference? How well did we do it?
The term outcome measurement or impact measurement is most commonly used in the not for profit world; a similar phrase, “performance measurement,” is used more often in the business and government arenas. In essence, they mean the same thing – that you are showing your funders that your programs are making a difference and that you are continually improving results by managing program performance.
WHY IS OUTCOMES MEASUREMENT IMPORTANT?
A blog posted by an entrepreneur James Clear and titled “What Would Happen If You Improved Everything by 1%: The Science of Marginal Gains” offers a primary reason why outcomes measurement is so important. He states that organisations often get caught up in thinking that change has to be earth-shattering and happen on a large scale for it to be meaningful, which often results in small 1 percent changes to go unnoticed.
But these small 1 percent changes can be meaningful in the long run as they will compound over time and eventually become noticeable. So, if you have small 1 percent improvements or declines in your programs and services at different points in time, these will eventually add up to be significant over the long term.
But how do we know about these small changes?
This is where outcomes measurement comes into play as it helps us to keep our finger on the pulse and consistently measure these 1 percent improvements or declines so that we can continually make adjustments to our programs and services, leading to the outcomes and results we need to create lasting change and impact.
Essentially, if you cannot measure it, you cannot (im)prove it.
Based on original blog content by Sidekick Solutions and repurposed with permission from Shannon Morales on 01/04/14