How do you know if your organization is achieving its goals or creating impact?
Many nonprofits are evaluating their performances using data analytics, which has helped them to allocate resources and address organizational challenges. This information doesn't just help to drive better outcomes. It has the potential to help organizations strengthen credibility, become more transparent and build an action-oriented workforce.
Impact measurements offer prospective funders and partners evidence of your organization's success while verifying your organization's influence and authority in the sector. Being able to confidently say that your organization improves the lives of 25,000 children annually or that you are seeking a professional to raise funds for a program that has had a 75 percent jump in attendance is much more convincing than relying on blanket statements or anecdotal stories about your impact in a job description. GuideStar's newest profile level, Platinum, is one useful tool for organizations to share qualitative metrics on the progress and results they're making toward their mission with the world.
Candidates want to know what you hope their contributions will achieve and how their work will be making a difference in the real world. While a lot of emphasis is placed on compensation, location and work-life balance during the job search process, data about an organization's reach also shows candidates that their role is worthwhile. As researchers of a study published in MIT Sloan Management Review explained, "Individuals tended to experience their work as meaningful when it mattered to others more than just to themselves."
Presenting an opportunity for impact
According to a 2015 report conducted by LinkedIn, the number one reason why people change jobs was because of career opportunity. The Workforce Purpose Index, the first study of the state of purpose across the U.S. workforce, also found that purpose-oriented employees have 64 percent higher levels of fulfillment, and are 50 percent more likely to be in leadership roles.
If an organization assesses data about its impact, services or challenges and advertises the results successfully, ambitious executives might be even more motivated to join the organization's team. The goal is to juxtapose your data with your mission, and identify a challenge or metrics that high-performing, purpose-driven candidates can feel confident about tackling in their new role. This presents a compelling value proposition for candidates.
Having benchmarks for success also lets candidates know what their performances in the role will be measured against. Feedback from data provides new hires with the information that is necessary to develop strategies and achieve short and long-term goals.
Candidates will appreciate that your organization isn't moving through the world blindly. Organizations that foster an environment where assessment of their impact and organizational health are valued demonstrate a commitment to improvement. This may lead candidates to have a positive perception of your organization.
Even evaluation that hints of weaknesses or gaps can be valuable because it informs incoming leaders of the challenges ahead. Whether your organization lacks visionary leadership or needs to expand its fundraising efforts, it's important to be aware of its Achilles' heel. This is important for candidates to make the case for why they are the right fit for the position.
Promoting data-focused leadership
In order to sustain a culture of evaluation, organizations should seek to hire a leader who champions assessment, and knows how to use data to motivate staff and inspire growth. Senior executives are the driving force behind instilling the value of assessment and evaluation across their organizations because culture change is often the most successful when it comes from the top down.
In "Using Data for Action and for Impact," a feature article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, Jim Fruchterman, a founder and CEO, reminds us that becoming a data-driven nonprofit isn't just a technical issue: "It requires some wrenching adjustments to organizational culture, both for nonprofits and social businesses and for donors, government agencies, and impact investors. And the objective of better outcomes through data requires confronting failure in its most positive aspect: learning what does and does not work."
Data-focused leaders with the capacity to recognize the big picture of where the organization has been, where it is now and where it's going, are able to create a roadmap for your organization's future. By assessing your impact, you are arming your organization with the tools to pivot when nonprofit landscapes change.
Sarah Waldbott is an associate at DRG, a national leader in nonprofit executive search. She has worked with a variety of nonprofit organizations in New York and Metro Detroit in both professional and volunteer capacities.