We recently launched our 2019 Seals of Transparency on GuideStar. This year, we’ve added new features to the Platinum Seal to help donors and funders better understand the metrics shared by nonprofits. (To learn more about the different Seals and where Platinum fits in, see this recent post by Candid’s Eva Nico.)
Before we launched the 2019 Seals, we asked nonprofits to share at least one metric from within the past year to earn a Platinum Seal. But we realized that, as an organization, you know your metrics like the back of your hand. You see them on your organizational dashboard. You strategize about how to improve the numbers. In other words, you have all the context needed to fully understand what your metrics are telling you.
But the public and your potential supporters don’t. We wanted to be sure that the 10 million visitors on GuideStar who may be viewing your Nonprofit Profile have more of that context. So, we added some descriptive tags to the metrics to help guide viewers.
The new features
When sharing a metric to earn a Platinum Seal, nonprofits will now be able to tag each metric with two new descriptions: “Type of Metric” and “Direction of Success.”
Type of Metric for Platinum Metrics
One of the first things a user might ask is “How does this metric fit into the nonprofit’s overall strategy?” Metric types are a quick way to share that information. There are five types to choose from: inputs, outputs, outcomes, context, and other. All types are important for sharing your organization’s full story.
Inputs: Are resources, both human and financial, devoted to a particular program or intervention (i.e., number of donors). (Harvard Family Research Project)
Outputs:Are the activities done by the nonprofit in the course of its mission-related activities (i.e., number of meals served by a soup kitchen). (Stanford Social Innovation Review [SSIR])
Outcomes: Are the observed effects of the outputs on the people or issues served by the nonprofit (i.e., the degree to which the meals served by the soup kitchen reduce hunger in the community served by the soup kitchen). (SSIR)
Context: Describes the problem or issue that the nonprofit is trying to address, often using researched facts or publicly available statistics (i.e., the percentage of homeless people who are food insecure in the community.)
Other: Are metrics that do not fit into any of the above categories.
Direction of Success for Platinum Metrics
It’s easy to assume that the organization hopes the numbers for each metric will grow. That’s not always the case. Often organizations track the problem they work to prevent—how many people go to bed hungry, how many children need dental care, how many stray animals are killed in shelters. Or they work to maintain a consistent number over time. We built the direction of success category to ensure that organizations can clarify what success looks like for each metric they enter. You can categorize success as a metric increasing, decreasing, or holding steady.
What we learned
More than 8,600 organizations have shared some 35,000 metrics on their Nonprofit Profiles. Rather than ask everyone to complete these new features before we released the 2019 Seals of Transparency, we gave those organizations a head start by setting initial values. Everyone is encouraged to review and change these designations. In the meantime, here’s what we learned from the process of labeling all 35,000 metrics.
1. It’s a Little Art and a Little Science
Sometimes it’s very easy to name the type of metric. Other times there’s a lot of nuance, making it tougher for us to choose. When we were setting the initial value for each metric, quite a few gave us pause. That’s to be expected—organizations have a variety of reasons for choosing specific metrics.
We added Type of Metric and Direction of Success tags to help others gain an understanding of the context you already have. The good news? First, you are the expert on your own work—we trust that you’ll have insight on your programs that guide your decisions—and second, we have a help guide complete with definitions and examples to help guide your thinking.
2. Nonprofits Took Different Approaches
When we were tagging metrics with the various types and directions, we discovered many combinations. Just as there isn’t one way to work toward social good, there isn’t one way to present your metrics. Some organizations had the same metric type for each metric they shared. Others spanned all five types of metric and all three directions of success. These differences reflect the variety of the social sector. When you’re identifying the metric you want to share, it may be a nice idea to share a few types to give users an idea of the range of your work overall.
Show us what you’ve got!
We’re looking forward to learning more from organizations that share their metrics and choose their metric indicators. If you’re a nonprofit and want to add metrics to your profile, get started now. We’ll be sure to share what we learn.
Jasmine Marrow is Candid’s director of nonprofit strategy.