Can you measure your nonprofit impact?

Are you operating from a gut feeling or do you have data to back up the work of your nonprofit? Do you have success stories, or are you making an impact?

Sometimes we get caught up in what we are doing and forget to measure whether or not we are making any progress. As a nonprofit you know your mission and vision are valuable. You know what you want to achieve, and you feel good about your daily activities. But do you know if you are making an impact?

In order to know your impact you need to measure it. Yes, that will take time and money, but it truly is part of the “cost of doing business.” You are asking organizations and individuals for resources and funding to help you grow and sustain and you need to be able to share with them the impact of your work. When you can measure your impact, you can evaluate which aspects of your work you need or want to invest more in. You will have more than a “gut feeling.” If you’re not making an impact you need to know that too so you can change to meet the challenge, merge, or maybe dissolve. 

Think about all the important work that nonprofits are engaged in. They are focused on reducing poverty, violence, homelessness, low wages, and incarceration. They work at increasing test scores, college graduation rates, literacy, the number of first-time homebuyers, access to healthcare and quality childcare. Just to name a few!

But what kind of impact are you making? How do you measure your impact? There are two types of data typically collected and used to define and communicate impact. These are qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative data includes stories, testimonials, and changes in attitudes. Quantitative data focuses on numbers and that means you need to start with a baseline: what are you measuring; what are your baseline (or initial numbers); and what is the change over time. Kaelee Nelson wrote about this for Candid.org in a post titled Impact measurement: How to measure your nonprofit’s impact.

Nelson’s post will walk you through the process of how to define your “key performance indicators” and how to measure them. Most importantly she reminds readers that “the most important KPI to measure is your mission impact.”

When you measure and communicate your impact it can be easier for donors and funders to understand the value of your work and why they should invest in it. That assumes your nonprofit is making a positive impact. If you find that your success stories are powerful, but your overall impact isn’t what you thought it would be, you can address that. This is also important to communicate to funders: nothing is perfect all the time – it’s most important to know where you are going and why. 

As you integrate evaluation into your work you will have success stories and data to communicate your impact and guide you to your future. 


Copyright 2021 – Mel and Pearl Shaw of Saad&Shaw – Comprehensive Fund Development Services. Let us help you plan for 2021 Video and phone conferencing services always available. Call us at (901) 522-8727. www.saadandshaw.com.

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