What to Measure

Almost every nonprofit monitors it program completion rates. What should be second on its list of things to measure?

The program completion rate is important because it demonstrates that clients participated in all parts of the programming. The completion rate is the first thing that the public looks at to determine if a program is valued by the clients. Is there any other number the public wants to see so it can judge the quality or legitimacy of your nonprofit? If so, that should be second on the list.

Now that we have covered public perception (what causes or prohibits a prospective client from contacting your nonprofit), it is time to concentrate on the mission. The mission statement for most nonprofits promises more than just program completion. What are the quantitative measures that indicate the promises of the mission are being kept? What are the changes in those measures that indicate the mission is reaching more clients and with greater depth?

For instance, if part of your mission statement promises to develop character in your clients, how do you know that is happening? Do client friends and family report more cheerful compliance with requests? Do the clients’ friends and family report a better relationship? Do you have a goal for each of those changes?

Once you decide what to measure, it is necessary to think about how to report it. It must be reported in a way that is meaningful to the individual stakeholder group. Who are the major stakeholder groups?

The public is probably the largest and most important. At a minimum, without public confidence and verbal support, it is difficult to have enough clients to fill the program. How will you report the development of character to the public in such a way that the listener values your mission? Do your clients have more stable marriages? More stable employment? Stronger families? Few arrests?

The other three major stakeholder groups are friends of clients, family members of clients, and donors. When you communicate with each group, you will need to share your success measures in a slightly different way.

Since being an ambassador for your nonprofit is one of the responsibilities of your board, your board needs to be trained to talk to each stakeholder group and express success in the most appropriate way to each group.

Next Step:

Decide how to measure the success of your mission

Decide how to express your success to each stakeholder group in a way that is meaningful to that group

Train your board to share your success appropriately with each stakeholder group

Use your new talking points with prospective clients, referral sources, and advocates

Now you have the talking points that will help you increase the reach of your mission.

Program completion establishes the legitimacy of your nonprofit. Keeping the promises of your mission establishes the value of your nonprofit (justifies the fees and donor gifts). The sustainability of your nonprofit depends on having both. If your client enrollment is below where you want it, which do you need to raise to increase your enrollment?


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