Impact at birth and impact throughout time. Collectively, Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), its clients, and its donors are all focused on results for the long haul. NFP is a nonprofit that partners nurses with low-income, first-time mothers with the aim of promoting healthy pregnancies, improving early childhood health and development, and helping young parents stay in school and find work. In recent years, NFP has been profiled in the media and supported by the Bush and Obama administrations as an organization that is really making a difference in poor communities. Since its beginning, NFP has and continues to actively collect data on its effectiveness.
In the More Money for More Good nonprofit guidebook, we talk about the three C’s of Collect, Communicate, and Connect. This is the first of a three-part series where we talk to different nonprofits that have put these ideas into practice. Joining us is Zach Lynott from Nurse-Family Partnership, to talk about how NFP collects information on its impact, and how that is used to both manage the organization and to engage with donors.
For NFP, collecting good information on your impact has always been a central part of the mission. How did this matter early on?
NFP founder Dr. David Olds began to research the effectiveness of Nurse-Family Partnership 35 years ago. It’s part of our history now and at the core of our best practices. Our model stems from three randomized, controlled trials conducted in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Long-term studies are still following the same mothers and children to evaluate NFP’s lifelong impact. We knew it wasn’t enough to merely implement our program and hope for the best. We wanted to be able to show our impact and prove the difference our work makes through randomized, controlled trials – the same gold standard used by the FDA and rarely used by other nonprofits. In fact, we are the only early childhood program identified by the Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy for having “Top Tier” evidence to support our stated effect. We are committed to both our good work and sharing news about our impact. We feel that this is something that sets us apart.
As the organization has grown, how else has impact data remained a focus of your cause?
Proving our results and effectiveness continues to influence the work we do and the programs we run. The NFP National Service Office continues to track the progress each NFP program is making to ensure it is making a difference in the lives of first-time moms and their children.
Today we collect information on every nurse home visit. We have a clear strategy with specific target outcomes. We broke those target outcomes down into what we could measure and track, and make it a point to collect that data. And we track this information over time. We collect data throughout the mom’s journey in NFP – from her first home visit from her nurse during her pregnancy until her child’s second birthday. Data is collected on the woman’s pregnancy, the child’s health and development, and the family’s economic self-sufficiency, among other categories. For example, nurses collect data on if the baby was born full term and at a healthy weight, child immunizations, and if a mother has earned her GED since enrolling in NFP.
In addition, longitudinal studies are still being conducted by Dr. Olds at the Prevention Research Center for Family and Child Health at the University of Colorado to measure the long-term outcomes of the families enrolled in the randomized, controlled trials.
Indeed, collecting useful information on our impact to ensure we always get better at what we do is part of our core principles. All of the information we compile, analyze, and return for use to our various NFP programs keeps data at our core. This practice allows us to continuously improve our models. By doing so, we are moving faster towards our implementation benchmarks in improving maternal and child health.
How does the information you collect influence your relationships with donors?
Like us, our donors want to know that we are doing what we say we will, and with flying colors. Our constituents can’t afford any less. That’s why we are so passionate about our work bettering pregnancy outcomes, preventing child abuse and neglect, improving school readiness, and changing mothers’ life courses. As we do this, we update our organization’s site for supporters, including the accolades we’ve been given by various nonprofit evaluators, information providers, and other third parties. This is important to those supporting us, those who are interested in the return on their investment. Without collecting data on our results and producing a statement of public impact, we wouldn’t know if we were producing a social return on the dollars we put into action. Having those tools at our disposal is one way that we differentiate our success from other organizations. We’re proud to measure and show the outcomes NFP makes in the lives of the at-risk families we serve and know this accountability forms the bedrock of our relationship with our donors.
Well, it certainly sounds like you are collecting the information you need to manage the organization effectively, and to be able to tell your donors about the impact you are having on those you serve. And it seems like a lot of the data is not that hard to collect – it comes down to having a clear strategy, defining what you need to know to measure progress, putting plans in place to track that information, and maintaining organizational commitment to keep impact at your core. Thank you for your time, Zach, and for sharing NFP’s story.