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Measuring Your Mission: Using Data to Track Organizational Health and Success-Idealware
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Measuring Your Mission: Using Data to Track Organizational Health and Success-Idealware

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As a leader of your organization, you'd probably like to see clear metrics to track your programs, outreach efforts, and the financial health of your organization. It can be daunting to define the …

As a leader of your organization, you'd probably like to see clear metrics to track your programs, outreach efforts, and the financial health of your organization. It can be daunting to define the right measures though -- where do you even start? Based on NTEN's and Idealware's research into what's actually working for nonprofits, we'll talk through what you should think about to define your own data-based metrics strategy, and hear from organizations who have successfully implemented their own strategies.

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  • First off, data isn’t really useful for decision making by itself. It’s just a bunch of names and numbers. You need to analyze or summarize the data in order for it to actually make sense to anyone, and to be able to use it to understand if you should change what you’re doing.
  • But in practice, this tends to be a bit of a chicken and an egg situation. You’d ideally start by defining the perfect metrics to measure your goals… but if you don’t have the data or the systems in place to generate those metrics, then it doesn’t matter how perfect they are.
  • Instead, you need to balance what you want to know and what metrics will help to measure if the organization is moving in the right direction, with a second priority – what can you easily collect without spending a vast amount of staff time? You want to make sure that you have a set of metrics that you can measure against now, today – you don’t want to hang your metrics strategy on some huge technology project that might or might not ever happen. So you need to look for the overlap – what are the metrics that can help you, that you can actually collect?
  • What should you be tracking? We can’t really just say “here’s the list of good metrics” – because what you’re tracking will be, and should be, different from what my organization is tracking. Because our mission is different, and we care about different things. But it’s important to think broadly about the types of things that might be useful. When you talk about metrics, many people think first of tracking impact, but it’s just as important (and often a lot easier) to track organization health and program health metrics.
  • Let’s start with organizational health – what are the right metrics for you to measure whether your organization will survive, or thrive, next year? There’s a lot of possible metrics you could track here. For instance, what about financial metrics?
  • Days of Cash on Hand is a widely used one here, which is a great metrics to understand your cash position and the size of your reserve
  • – how many people have donated? How many new donors compared to returning donors? What about the number of SYBUNT donors – a great acronym, which stands for Some Year but Unfortunately Not This Year– or LYBUNT, which is the same thing, except it’s specifically Last Year.
  • The most common thing to track here is probably the concept of Reach – how many people are looking at your website? How many are on your email list? These kind of reach numbers can be a great way to see the change in the number of people you’re likely to be able to get to pay attention to what you might want to say.
  • This is an area where a lot of people use surveys to do board or leadership assessments, for instance to measure how people think things are going. Or if you’re a bigger organization, you can take a look at staff or volunteer turnover. How many people left the organization this year compared to last?
  • What should you be tracking? We can’t really just say “here’s the list of good metrics” – because what you’re tracking will be, and should be, different from what my organization is tracking. Because our mission is different, and we care about different things. But it’s important to think broadly about the types of things that might be useful. When you talk about metrics, many people think first of tracking impact, but it’s just as important (and often a lot easier) to track organization health and program health metrics.
  • Are people actually showing up for your program? Are they finishing it? What are the demographics of the people who are participating? Are you actually reaching the people you’re trying to reach?
  • This type of information is often measured with a survey – for instance, on the bottom right, we’re looking at the results of a simple evaluation. On the top left, there’s the results of a more complex survey. They asked participants for their perceptions of how the program impacted them – for instance, how many people said their sleep is improved? That they program helped them stay calm?
  • This type of information is often measured with a survey – for instance, on the bottom right, we’re looking at the results of a simple evaluation. On the top left, there’s the results of a more complex survey. They asked participants for their perceptions of how the program impacted them – for instance, how many people said their sleep is improved? That they program helped them stay calm?
  • Metrics, in comparison, are numbers – often tallies, or ratios, or calculations – that are designed to be checked over time, so you can see your progress. A list of constituents is just data, for instance – but the number of people who donated in the past year is a metric. The metric summarizes the data so it’s more immediately usable to answer your questions.
  • Metrics, in comparison, are numbers – often tallies, or ratios, or calculations – that are designed to be checked over time, so you can see your progress. A list of constituents is just data, for instance – but the number of people who donated in the past year is a metric. The metric summarizes the data so it’s more immediately usable to answer your questions.
  • Again, the trick is to find that intersection between what you want to know, and what you can easily collect. If you haven’t yet, pick just a few metrics to try to get used to using them as an organization. Pick ones that apply to things that you’re thinking about right now as an organization, so you can immediately start to talk about them. It’s also really useful to start with ones that are sensitive to change – so for instance, it’s most rewarding to pick a metric that will easily increase or decrease according to things you do. That allows you to test out different hypotheses and see what happens in the metrics.
  • Because after all, there’s no point in measuring something if you have no intention of ever changing anything about it. Think of metrics as part of a cycle – when you define your tactics, define how you’ll measure if that’s a success. Then after you take that action, measure how it went, and refine. Refine your tactics, but also consider refining your metrics – perhaps what you chose to use to measure wasn’t as useful as you thought. No big deal; you can just tweak it or choose something else that will work better.
  • And it’s hard to get started if you define some grand scheme. Plan to start small, with just a few metrics you feel you can pull and use pretty easily, and let your metrics program grow from there.
  • Just plan to make a little metrics snowball at first, so your organization can see that data can be really useful in decision making. For many organizations, things grow from there – once people get a taste for data, they often want more of it. And your little metrics snowball can turn into an avalanche of interest in data.

Transcript

  • 1. Measuring Your Mission:Using Data to Track Organizational Health and Success
  • 2. Measuring YourMission: Using Data toTrack OrganizationalHealth and Success#13NTCtrackLaura Quinn, Idealware
  • 3. Introductions…
  • 4. Using Metrics for Decision Making
  • 5. You Have Lots of Data
  • 6. How Do You Get From Here to There?
  • 7. Data Isn’t Useful By Itself
  • 8. Its a Chicken-and-Egg Situation
  • 9. You Need to Balance Desire with Practicality ?
  • 10. What Might You Want to Track?
  • 11. Two Different Types of Metrics Impact Metrics
  • 12. Consider Organizational Health
  • 13. Financial Heath: Consider Days of Cash How many days could you operate with just the cash you have in the bank?
  • 14. Fundraising Health: Consider Donor Counts • Total Number of Donors • New Donors • Returning Donors • Some Year But Unfortunately Not This Year (SYBUNT)
  • 15. Marketing Health: Consider Reach
  • 16. Staff and Board Health: Consider Turnover
  • 17. Two Different Types of Metrics Impact Metrics
  • 18. Thinking About Program Metrics
  • 19. Your Own Activity • Number of houses canvassed • Fliers posted • Number of classes conducted • Hours of programming
  • 20. Attendance and Participation Numbers • Number registered • Percent who finished the program • Number who attended a session • Number of calls to helpline
  • 21. Initial Satisfaction • Number who agreed that the training was useful • Number who felt counseling was worthwhile • Number who said their question was answered
  • 22. Longer Term Activity or Satisfaction • Percent reporting improvement • Recidivism • Percent who hold a job one year out • Reported improvement in health
  • 23. Attributable Impact Trying to find attributable impact– as opposed to change caused by other people, or that would have happened anyway—is rigorous, expensive, and generally out of the reach of smaller nonprofits.
  • 24. Find the Right Balance
  • 25. A Process For Defining A Starting Set of Metrics
  • 26. Our Overall Process
  • 27. Want Help? We worked on developing this process as part of a NTEN research initiative– and there’s a free workbook to go with it!http://www.nten.org/research/2013-data-workbook-download
  • 28. Define What Question You Want to Measure
  • 29. Define Where You Want to Focus First
  • 30. Brainstorm Some Tactical Questions Think through question in the area to define some questions meet some important criteria: • The answers will help you improve as an org. • Your organization can impact the answers. • Numbers can help you answer it. • You can create a hypothesis of an answer, and then test it.
  • 31. Pick An Action Question to StartFor instance…• Is our blog worth the time we spend on it?• How can we improve program attendance?• Did our program actually help our clients quit smoking?
  • 32. Do Others Care This Area?
  • 33. Picking the Right Metrics
  • 34. Metrics Allow You to MeasureThey help you determine the success of your tactics.
  • 35. You Can Only Measure Actions Relevant PossibleMy Question Actions Metrics • I put the programs on Facebook Ways to How can • I send an email measurewe improve • People register for the actions program class inattendance? • People actually attend numbers • Other organizations pass on the word
  • 36. Brainstorm Actions that Affect Your Question What actions could YOU take that would impact your action question? What actions could your constituents take? What actions could other people take?
  • 37. What Metrics Can You Track For Each?What kinds of numeric data would be useful?
  • 38. What Data Are You Collecting? Survey data? Info about staff or participants? Data from line staff?
  • 39. What Data Can You Get From Systems? Info on communication reach? Financial data? Constituent data?
  • 40. What External Data Could Be Useful? Public info from your Information from state or county? partner organizations
  • 41. How Useful Would Those Metrics Be?Just because you have it doesn’tmean it’s useful in tracking whatyou’re interested in.
  • 42. Think Through the Right Metrics for You
  • 43. Designing a Process for Success
  • 44. How Will the Metrics be Created?
  • 45. How Will the Metrics be Used? How frequently will you check in on whether the metrics themselves are effective?
  • 46. Create An Action Plan
  • 47. Getting Started with Metrics For Your Organization
  • 48. Find Your Sweet Spot
  • 49. Think of Metrics as a Cycle
  • 50. It’s Best to Start Small
  • 51. Make a Snowball…Start an Avalanche
  • 52. Evaluate This Session!Each entry is a chance to win an NTEN engraved iPad!or Online using #13NTCtrack at www.nten.org/ntc/eval