Outcomes Over Outputs: More Important Than Ever

In light of legislative efforts to monitor and limit what those receiving governmental funding can say or teach, it will be critically important for nonprofits to accurately measure and represent their actual outcomes when discussing their community impacts and seeking donors. Remember, too many nonprofit organizations use output data (i.e., the number of people served) as proof of their effectiveness, when major donors would rather hear about outcomes data (i.e., how the services are impacting the long-term lives of clients and the community).

We have to be able to tangibly prove our efforts are working with hard data. If we cannot demonstrate our methods are effective, then all information is up for debate and interpretation by anyone who wants to call it into question. For some nonprofits, the trick will be doing this in states where the services rendered may clash with new laws. What happens when the government limits a nonprofit’s abilities to provide core services?

We have to be very clear why we do what we do and how it is making a difference in our communities. We have to justify our work with hard data that shows outcomes, and it is of paramount importance to understand how this impacts the “asks” we are making of our donors. Most philanthropists say they will not invest large sums of money unless they know the outcomes. When we change the way we talk about success and highlight our overall impact, or outcomes, we are more in line with what donors are looking for, and therefore, will be more successful when asking for funds.

There are many different ways we can communicate our impact and outcomes. Are we just serving people and counting the services we provide, or are we measuring whether or not our programs are doing anything for people? Are we actually talking about how we transform lives, communities, or companies? When we talk outputs, we talk about services rendered and the numbers participating. When we talk outcomes, we talk about what happened because of the services provided. For instance, if someone in a shelter was permanently housed through the shelter’s programs, that’s an outcome, meaning the act of sheltering someone resulted in a positive impact and a positive outcome for that person. This is how their life was transformed by the services we provide.

Look, we all survived COVID, and we will survive these changes too ⎼ we just have to be prepared. If you want to explore more ways to measure your nonprofit’s true outcomes, contact Sharity Global today. We are ready to walk this new frontier with you and help you navigate it.