10 Ways to Measure Impact (that are not Overhead)
By the Executive Service Corps
Using overhead to calculate the value of an organization is outdated and discriminatory. We highly recommend you read Is Your View of Overhead Uncharitable? to learn more about the dangers of overhead as a measurement of a nonprofit. There are many ways to measure the true mission impact of an organization. Here are ten recommended by the Executive Service Corps. Review them all before deciding what makes sense for your charity’s mission.
1. Number of People, Families, or Organizations Served
If your organization provides goods or services to the community, tracking the number of people, families, or organizations served can show your footprint and progress toward your goals. For example, a tutoring program might calculate the number of children they serve.
2. Number of Goods and/or Services Provided
If your charity gave 10 thingamabobs to community members, this is a measurable outcome that can be calculated and tracked. An organization that provides free books to low-income children can track the number of books distributed.
3. Value of Goods and/or Services Provided
The monetary value of goods and/or services provided by an organization is a measurable impact. It is often calculated by accountants and auditors as part of the organization’s books. An organization that provides healthcare services to those without access can track the fair market value in dollars of the services provided to their patients.
4. Geographic Range
Your nonprofit’s service area, such as the neighborhood of East Garfield, West side, city limits, Chicagoland, Illinois, Midwest, National, or International. Your service is meaningful as you correlate the needs of the community you serve to how you fulfill them. A nonprofit radio station tracking their geographic coverage in the community via their radio signal can indicate their reach.
5. Distance Covered
The number of miles traveled by the organization can be a useful measurement in determining service impact. An illustration would be an organization that provides transportation to and from medical appointments might track the miles driven. Alternatively, a provider of high-speed internet to rural and under-served communities might calculate the miles of cables they installed.
6. Funds Given
The amount of money distributed is easily tracked by accountants and auditors. Funds given out is a long-held matrix of foundations but can also be used by giving circles and small community organizations with niche areas of gifts.
7. Quality Rating
Your clients, the recipients of your organization’s goods or services, be they individuals or institutions, can provide anonymous feedback. The rating that they give the quality of your work can be a very revealing impact measure. It can also provide critical feedback on opportunities for improvement and evolution. The Executive Service Corps carefully tracks our clients' anonymous feedback and uses that rating to determine the success of our work as well as opportunities for continuous professional and program development.
8. Error Rating
Tracking mistakes made in goods or services provided illustrates success and identifies places in your supply chain where procedures need to be adjusted for the efficiency of resources. Zero errors are perfect and should be celebrated. However, zero errors also tell you that additional data will be needed to determine growth opportunities. If your organization prepares packages of emergency goods such as food or first aid kits, how many are being utilized by front line workers versus how many have to be discarded due to an error in production or lack of the appropriate tools for the situation would be a revealing measurement.
9. Returning Clients
Keeping tabs on which clients, recipients of a nonprofit's services, return to receive additional services or come directly from referrals from a former client can illustrate program success or client satisfaction. There are organizations that do not want clients to quickly return such as a career program that helps people return to the workforce after a job loss. They hope their clients will secure jobs and stay at the jobs long term. Conversely, there are nonprofits such as hospitals that want to maintain relationships with their patients long-term and have them bring their family and friends to receive healthcare there too.
Tracking the number of hours, weeks, or years a nonprofit provides services can also show impact. An animal shelter can calculate the number of hours of emergency care for abandoned animals is provided by calculating the hours for each animal's stay until adoption and then adding those numbers for all animals in a given time period. This can show both impact and the utilization rate of the animal shelter’s facilities.