An ‘Outcomes Journey’: Using Technology to Align for Impact
By this point, you’ve no doubt heard the buzz about outcomes in the nonprofit world. It’s been exciting to see how many nonprofit organizations and foundations are becoming passionate about the idea of measurement and results.
Social good organizations have reached a point of impact—a point in the giving sector’s evolution at which organizations are shifting their giving mindset from “look how much we gave” to “look what our funding has achieved.”
But of course, shifting an organization’s approach to tracking success isn’t a simple, overnight process. Each organization is on what we like to call an “outcomes journey,” where results-focused funders and nonprofits are moving from basic outcomes measurement to a strategic and integrated approach.
Successfully tracking and utilizing outcomes to drive your organization forward requires a united front across the organization and beyond. And the good news is that we have more tools than ever before to help us facilitate this kind of collaboration to accelerate our journeys and become more effective.
As technology evolves to allow greater transparency and communication, we have the opportunity to use our tech tools to link all facets of the organization to our outcomes journey.
It Begins With Strategy
From an impact perspective, this all starts with the strategy. Your organization must develop a clear plan rooted in your mission and vision to make the shift from a traditional service provider to a results-focused impact achiever. When designing activities, the organization should focus on the results of those activities—what needs to be achieved to truly move the needle. This requires a clearly defined target audience, desired result and goal, and the measurable indicators that can be monitored as the programs are carried out.
With those three areas defined, the frontline tool for organizations is the case management software being used to track activities. The organization must work to develop practices that can take translate those activities into behavioral outcomes that align with their desired results and goals. When those practices are defined, they then need to be operationalized with policies and practices that all teams can reference.
Just like we recommend creating governance strategies for healthy data practices across the organization, outcomes measurement must be transparent, united effort that everyone across the organization understands and drives towards.
In this way, your organization can truly be leveraging technology to facilitate success, not just track activities.
Once outcomes or behavioral changes are being monitored and reported at both the programmatic and organizational level, the next step is to embed these results into all funding opportunities and organization communications. Here’s an example of the difference outcomes-focused communications can make (Figure 1).
It’s All About Outcomes
The more seamlessly your organization can work with technology across teams to track and report on outcomes, the easier and more effective the development and communications team’s storytelling can be. These stronger, clearer stories have so many benefits, including attracting new donors, engaging staff and attracting strong talent and identifying funders who are truly aligned with the mission, minimizing risk of ‘mission creep’ pressure from funders.
And when the whole organization is aligned around outcomes, the impact can even scale beyond the organizational level. A clear vision of outcomes and progress allows the organization to determine who is solving related social issues and whether there are opportunities to collaborate.
Aligned groups tackling issues together from different angles have strong cases for combined funding opportunities, allowing them to achieve deeper results than if they were working alone.
While it’s true that each social good organization has its own unique starting point when it comes to deepening its approach to tracking and measuring outcomes and impact, this is a journey best taken together. Just as one person doesn’t own 100 percent of the work of creating social change, the measurement of the effects of that work should be a collaborative effort; and today’s technology offers greater opportunities for this kind of transparency and focus than ever before.
This TeckTalk article was published in the May/June issue of NonProfit PRO. Read the full magazine issue here.