Some of the most inspiring conversations that I’ve had in the nonprofit sector have been with Executive Directors or other senior staff who are absolutely manic about their clients. They obsess about how to continually improve their services so that their clients can be better off. Pretty much universally the discussion eventually gets to the data that underpins the decisions that the organization makes and this is often where the discussion really gets interesting. While numbers and stats can be tremendously boring for some, these senior staff reel off data that gets them even more excited about what they do.
If a nonprofit is tracking those key metrics that matter most for serving its clients and is manic about improving what they do to improve those it serves, reporting on results should be a breeze. No more discussion of administrative or fundraising ratios, or even number of clients served, these organizations can talk about what matters – the change they help to create. Fundraising is not the reason for tracking the data but the correct data will help donors really understand the answer to their key question of how their money helps.
Charity Intelligence is working to get this type of information more readily available for donors in Canada so that donors can make better-informed giving decisions. We rate nonprofits on the breadth and depth of their results reporting and we are finding that most of these organizations are not living up to donor expectations. In fact, our most recent data on Social Results Reporting shows that we are only able to find 36% of the information that we would like to see. And when it comes to the most important question: “What impact is this organization having?” we find only 25% of this critical information.
I am hoping that a good chunk of the problem is that nonprofits simply are not reporting on a great deal of the data that they use in their internal decision making. My worry, however, based on many discussions with nonprofit organizations, is that some are flowing mostly rudderless down the stream. They have a great idea and are trying to do something about it. They have been doing it for many years and they “know” that it works. But when pressed, they cannot demonstrate that they are making any difference, and have no idea where they should even look for improvements. With a few key metrics as their rudder, any nonprofit can gain control and more effectively navigate towards their goal.
No nonprofit should measure things simply to report on them. This is a waste of time and donor dollars. However, data is vitally important – both immediate feedback data as well as some type of longer term tracking. Data on those key metrics that tell a nonprofit how much of an impact they are having on their clients provides the rudder that allows client-manic organizations to excel. Oh, and as a bonus, this data can also be used as effective fundraising.
Want to learn more about how you can use social impact reporting to attract donors and demonstrate the true impact of investing in your organization? View our webcast that will walk you through "Social Reporting Lite" and help you transition from reporting results to reporting social impact.