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Truth or Truthiness: Seven Steps to Track and Share Progress and Outcomes

Truth or Truthiness: Seven Steps to Track and Share Progress and OutcomesStephen Colbert introduced the word “truthiness” as something that feels true but isn’t based in fact.

Is your nonprofit reporting truth or truthiness? Are you getting the facts of your progress and outcomes out there for your current and potential donors to see?

Nonprofits that operate in a transparent and demonstrable manner enjoy a competitive advantage. Current and potential donors have a dizzying array of instantly accessible online resources to evaluate your nonprofit and see how it compares to others. You want to able to stand out in the crowd.

If you’re already tracking, fantastic! We’ll explore where you can share this information, current and past.

Why does it matter?

Tracking and sharing progress and outcomes matter because donors and other stakeholders—board, volunteers, staff, potential employees—care. Donations and personal satisfaction are influenced and shaped by them. They make fundraising easier. Some big donors told me they require them.

So while we’re busy looking up information about donors, they’re looking up information about us, too. In today’s data-driven world of instant online gratification, contributors care about their “donor experience” and want you to show that you’re focused on measuring your progress and outcomes. Donors crave this information, so it’s good for fundraising.

Before you can ask donors to take action, you must show that you’ve taken action too. Show them that you care!

What should you track?

How do you know if you’re making progress? How do you measure it?

Here is a helpful list of specific measurements to inspire your thinking and give you more precision in what you track. It’s important to select a manageable lift of five to seven measurements and benchmarks so that you can keep them updated at regular intervals.

Step 1: Select your five most important performance benchmarks, ones that are amenable to tracking and regular updates.

Step 2: Collect the current and historical data for each benchmark and put them in a spreadsheet that you can keep updated. This will be your “Data Dashboard.”

Look for opportunities to engage your board leadership and donors to determine the measurements that most matter to them.

Where should you share?

Performance tracking should be the centerpiece of your communications strategy, including public relations, your website, email messages and newsletters, print materials and annual reports. But your first audience is internal, and they will be delighted to engage with you.

Step 3: Share your Data Dashboard internally first. Ask for feedback and fine-tune as needed.

Once you’ve built your Data Dashboard and have earned your organization’s confidence in it, introduce it externally.

Step 4: Update your website with this information and disseminate broadly in newsletters, print materials and annual reports.

Now comes the exciting part. Millions of current and prospective donors are drawn to donation sites such as AmazonSmile, JustGive, Network for Good, and America’s largest nonprofit, Fidelity Charitable. All of these sites share one thing in common: they draw information and data from the GuideStar database. So do other major U.S.-based donor-advised funds, more than 35,000 staff from private foundations, and 16 leading community foundations.

Step 5: Update your GuideStar Nonprofit Profile. In 30 minutes or less you can earn a coveted Bronze, Silver, or Gold GuideStar Seal of Transparency.

The nonprofit world’s equivalent of an Academy Award, GuideStar Platinum, is celebrating its first anniversary this month. It’s the best and easiest way for your nonprofit to trumpet your ongoing progress and benchmark accomplishments. In this brief introduction GuideStar’s Eva Nico describes GuideStar Platinum and its significance.

Step 6: Use your Data Dashboard to upgrade your GuideStar Seal of Transparency to Platinum. Just follow this step-by step guide.

Step 7: Schedule a monthly recurring appointment, say the first Monday of every month, to update your Data Dashboard and then update your GuideStar profile. Keep it fresh!

Some final thoughts to get you started

Tracking and sharing progress and outcomes also produces a powerful sense of pride on the part of stakeholders like staff, potential employees and especially volunteers and Board leadership.

Jamie Austin is a nonprofit board member: “My experience being a board member at Village Enterprise, where we have a Platinum Seal on GuideStar, is that it’s made fundraising easier. The Platinum Seal helps us stand out since there are so many nonprofits for donors to choose from.” Here’s the Village Enterprise Fund’s Platinum profile. All truth, no truthiness!

If millions of current and potential donors can already access your GuideStar information anyway, then why not jump on your profile right now, today? Let’s get on it!

Truth or Truthiness: Seven Steps to Track and Share Progress and OutcomesThe preceding is a guest post by Ian McCuaig, a fundraising consultant and advisor to the online giving platform Abuntoo. For 20 years Ian has developed and executed donor-centric fundraising strategies for more than 50 nonprofits, as consultant or C-Suite staff leader. Ian’s opinion pieces have been published here, in Newsday, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the San Francisco Examiner.

© 2017, Ian McCuaig. All Rights Reserved.

Topics: Nonprofit metrics Nonprofit results