Did You Know? Nonprofits are Accountable for Impact Measurement by Roxanne Jensen, Ed.S., GPC

“When the money keeps rolling out, you don’t keep books. You can tell you’ve done well by the happy, grateful looks. Accountants only slow things down, figures get in the way.” – Evita by Andrew Llyod Weber.

In actuality, did you know that nonprofits are accountable for impact measurement?

Impact measurement is a critical process for nonprofits to assess their effectiveness in achieving their mission and making a positive difference in the communities they serve. By measuring and evaluating their impact, nonprofits can determine whether their programs and initiatives are successful and identify areas for improvement. Impact measurement is a critical aspect of nonprofit management. This aspect involves assessing and quantifying the outcomes and effectiveness of a nonprofit’s programs and initiatives in relation to its stated mission and goals. By measuring the impact of their work, nonprofits can demonstrate accountability to their stakeholders, including donors, beneficiaries, partners, and the public.

Nonprofits exist to fulfill a specific mission or purpose (see Did You Know 501(c)(3)). This mission frequently defines the nonprofit’s goals and objectives and guides all its activities. While a mission change is rare (beware of “mission-creep”), goals and objectives may be updated annually, by project, every few years with a new strategic plan, or if there is a change in leadership. Nonprofits must clearly define the outcomes they aim to achieve and identify measurable indicators that can demonstrate progress toward those outcomes. These indicators can be quantitative (e.g., number of beneficiaries served, reduction in poverty rate) or qualitative (e.g., improved quality of life, increased community engagement).

Before implementing a program, nonprofits establish a baseline to understand the initial state of the target population or issue they are addressing. This baseline data serves as a reference point for measuring progress over time (i.e., increases or decreases to target outcomes). Successful nonprofits continuously monitor their programs and initiatives to ensure they are being implemented as planned and evaluate their performance against predefined outcomes and indicators. Gathering relevant data to track their progress and impact is important.

Impact measurement incorporates both qualitative and quantitative evaluation methods. This data can come from various sources, such as surveys, interviews, focus groups, participant records, or third-party assessments. While quantitative data provides numerical evidence of impact, qualitative data offers insights into the program’s effectiveness, participant experiences, and contextual factors.

Nonprofits rely on various sources of funding, including individual donations, grants from foundations and government agencies, corporate sponsorships, fundraising events, and earned income (e.g., fees for services or products they offer). Nonprofits share their impact measurement findings through reports and communication materials. Transparency in reporting helps build trust with donors, stakeholders, and the public.

Impact measurement is not only about reporting outcomes but also about learning from the data collected. Nonprofits use this information to improve their strategies, enhance program effectiveness, and make data-driven decisions. Impact measurement goes beyond short-term results and considers the long-term sustainability of the organization’s efforts. Overall, impact measurement is an essential tool for nonprofits to demonstrate accountability to donors, stakeholders, and the communities they serve. It also helps them refine their strategies and make a greater positive impact on society.

AGS blogs, funding alerts, and trainings are aligned with the Grant Professional Certification Institute’s Competencies and Skills

Competency #2: Knowledge of organizational development as it pertains to grant seeking

Skill 2.4 Identify values, mission, and goals of your organization’s overall strategic plan as it relates to the grant process/grant seeking


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