Well, round number one of site visits has come to an end. After almost two months of touring the state, it seems almost strange to be sitting at my desk and know that, other than our upcoming VMC training day and monthly regional meetings, there is no more travel on my calendar for a few months. One of the things that came up at almost every site visit was measurable outcomes. Measurable outcomes are extremely important for nonprofits—you want to show your donors, clients, and volunteers that you truly are making an impact on the community you serve—but they are also tricky because you have to figure out how to quantify the service you are doing. That is why we worked with every VMC and Site Supervisor to make sure their measurable outcomes were solid; after all, we want to know that our AmeriCorps members are making an impact, too.
If measurable outcomes are a challenge for your nonprofit, check out the following information to help you figure them out:
Goals, objectives, and outcomes are different. Goals are broad statements answering the question “What does your organization hope to accomplish?” Objectives are narrower, answering the question, “How will your organization accomplish its goals?” Outcomes are the actual results that occur through achievement of the objectives
Outcomes usually are benefits or changes in participants’ knowledge, attitudes, values, skills, behavior, condition or status. Most often, an outcome represents a change for the better, although the outcome for some programs is that participants get worse more slowly than they would have otherwise. The more specific you can be when defining outcomes, the easier it will be to report results on those outcomes.
There are three basic parts to a measurable outcome: the number or percentage of participants/clients impacted (people, trees, miles of stream, acres of land, etc.), a specific measurable change in participants/clients (the anticipated effect, something concrete or observable such as improved reading skills, cleaner water, knowledge of healthy eating habits, etc.), and a time period in which this should occur (be realistic and think short-term, there are many factors that influence clients over several-year periods, narrow it down so you can focus on your impact alone).
Volunteer Maryland also asks our VMCs how they will measure these results within their AmeriCorps year, a good thing for any nonprofit to think about when setting out measurable outcomes. Some ideas for how to do this are pre- and post-test surveys, standardized test or grade scores, attendance records, or participant self-evaluations. If you are using a survey, make sure your questions actually measure what you want them to measure. Many surveys exist that can be adapted to fit your program needs. For more information, visit The Corporation for National and Community Service’s Resource Center.
Check out these other resources for more information on measurable outcomes!