Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lose Your Gut! Get Serious About Measurement.


This is not a post about how to lose ten pounds in two weeks.  You'll have to head over to Jillian Michaels to learn more about that.  Instead, it's a post about abandoning your heart and using your head to run your nonprofit.

Yes, I said it.  You have to use your head to run a nonprofit. 

While PASSION and HEART should drive your communications and fundraising, everything you do should also be backed by data and analytics - the HEAD STUFF.  And this means creating a "data-informed" or measurement-based culture.

In their fabulous new book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World, Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine put it this way,
"Getting started on the path to becoming a data-informed nonprofit is a matter of having some important internal conversations.  It is not just about having new inspiration about measurement or working with new tools; it means thinking differently about the organization and how it works...Measurement is a formal discipline, governed by rules and processes established by academics and researchers...No matter what your program or campaign - be it an event, a Facebook page, a messaging campaign, or a donor outreach program - there are seven basic steps for doing good measurement and getting valid and actionable results."
They then continue with an illumination of a seven-step measurement process.

Amen!

I'm tired of hearing that nonprofits are all mission and no measurement.  And I'm frustrated that the sector gets a bad rep because we "don't run like businesses."

But when I speak to nonprofit leaders, I'm often dismayed by the lack of rigor they apply to their programs.
Me: Why did you start this program?
Ans: We got a grant.

Me: What is the goal?
Ans: Oh, we don't really have a goal, we just want to help in the community.

Me: How much does the program cost?
Ans:  It's FREE!  We have volunteers who do all the work.
Me: How do you measure success?
Ans: I'm not sure what you mean.
This is not a rant (well maybe it is) but if we really want to run high-performing organizations that can scale and achieve results, we've simply got to get better at measurement, i.e. defining our goals, audiences, benchmarks, metrics and costs and EVALUATING our success or lack thereof.  We also need to STOP doing activities and programs that don't work!

Measurement helps us get out of our hearts and into our heads.  It can positively transform the way we work.  See A Dozen Reasons that Measurement is Powerful by Kanter and Paine below.

If you're looking for a silver bullet, if you want to improve your results TODAY, begin a culture shift at your nonprofit.  Marry your passion for your work with measurement.  And stop relying on your gut alone to drive decisions.  You should also read Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World.

Then go out and do what you do best with your head and your heart!

Cheers!

Jocelyn

A Dozen Reasons that Measurement is Powerful
  1. It gives you feedback so you know you are headed in the right direction (or not!)
  2. It stimulates ideas on what to do next.
  3. It helps you document results, so, for instance, you can show your boss that you're not "just wasting time on Facebook."
  4. It gives you a credible way to report back to funders and stakeholders.
  5. It helps you learn what tools and techniques work best.
  6. It saves you time, because you're not wasting it on efforts that don't get results.
  7. It attracts success by helping you plan for it.  And it tells you when you achieve it.
  8. It helps you raise more money.
  9. It helps you work smarter.
  10. It fuels your passion for your work.
  11. It generates excitement for your mission.
  12. It helps you change the world.

3 comments:

Beth said...

Jocelyn: Thank you so much for this review -- appreciate it! Would love to hear how you apply some of the ideas in the book!

Marriam said...

Thank you for sharing the importance of tracking and analyzing metrics. Analyzing metrics is very important to better understand the techniques that work and techniques that need fine tuning. I look forward to using your twelve tips.

Simon Choy said...

You hit the nail on the head with analytics being crucial for nonprofits. With the delivery of information so digital these days, it's also easier than ever to measure data, and less reason not to. Google Analytics is one great testament to this. Actually, I wrote an article on how Analytics can be used to grow nonprofits that I think would be relevant here http://bit.ly/YNnNSm