How Do You Measure a Nexus?
Gathering and interpreting metrics are challenges in any organization. Non-profits seem to suffer more than most, however, since our objectives can be far more vague than bottom-line corporate objectives. Consider the case study from Talley and Fram’s research on the use of imperfect measurements in this October’s edition of Nonprofit Quarterly
A local Jewish community center had a strategic objective to become the “nexus of Jewish life” in the region. While board members felt the objective was absolutely central, they had a difficult time giving it a precise, measurable meaning. It had a slightly different nuance for each board member. And the openness of the concept was part of its appeal. They did not want to nail it down precisely; it was important that it be allowed to evoke different images in the staff and membership.
The first measure used was whether program participants had found a new friend through their involvement with the center. This is clearly a dubious metric, but it did focus attention on whether the center was merely a service provider (which people just attended) or whether it was actually a catalyst for community members (who might talk to each other enough to find a new friend).
The second measure was whether people felt more connected to the Jewish community as a result of their involvement in the center. It is clearly a very subjective measure, and it was reliant on all the vagaries of self-selection in a survey tool. But watching it trend up or down gave the staff a good reason to re-examine how they were engaging community members and meeting their needs. http://nonprofitquarterly.org/management/20701-using-imperfect-metrics-well-tracking-progress-and-driving-change.html.
This example provides a great source of metrics for nonprofits – the survey. While it must be carefully constructed and delivered, a survey can be a great data collection tool for the more abstract services your organization might provide. A survey can collect attitude, impact, individual growth, and relational data on those clients your organization serves. We at Brighter Strategies specialize in brainstorming and customizing such surveys and are always happy to help.
In our next blog we will examine the 5-step process that each of the examples we have examined used to arrive at their chosen metrics. These should give you a great start on customizing your own metric tools.