The Role of Outcome Measurement, Part 2

Today we bring outcome measurement home. In our last blog article, we described steps one through five with the tale of Sue Ito and Jefferson County Library’s Young Adult Education Program (JCL’s YAEP). Here we’ll outline the second half of organization development firm Brighter Strategies’s outcome measurement process. Learn more in our free resource guide, “Outcome Measurement: From Theory to Implementation,” available for download here.

Outcome measurement: Steps Six Through Nine

  1. Collect data.

    Data collection, often the most time-consuming part of the outcome measurement process, serves to fulfill each metric you wrote in Step 5. It is also a point by which you can track progress on outcomes over time. Consider organization records, stakeholder surveys, objective observation of participants, focus groups, and interviews as possible data collection methods.

  2. Analyze data.

    Interpret what the data you gathered is saying about your outcomes by comparing data to established targets for each indicator and other benchmarks, as well as to prior data collected over time. Then, look for trends, such as differences between your client groups, programs, and similar organizations’ programs. Remember to consider multiple data points during analysis to ensure the big picture is accurately represented.

  3. Report findings.

    Create several versions of conclusions for various stakeholders such as funders, senior leaders, and program staff. The audience will dictate the level of detail – provide little detail to internal stakeholders and more to external. Finally, disseminate the reports using creative mediums that best reach each audience, such as email, print, and web.

  4. Take action.

    Use the collective knowledge gained from Steps 1 through 8 to create an action plan. For example, identify where improvements are needed, form small working groups to examine the reasons for unusual outcome results, and identify high-performing program staff for recognition or rewards.

The Story of Sue Ito, Continued

When we left Sue Ito, her cross-department outcome measurement group had successfully written outcomes and indicators for the YAEP. Sue’s team now embarks on its data collection journey, using the below methods for guidance.

 

Short-term Outcome Indicators

Data Collection Sources

Mid-term Outcome Indicators

Data Collection Sources

Long-term Outcome Indicators

Data Collection Sources

60 percent of participants show evidence of increased IT knowledge on pre- and post- program survey Participant satisfaction survey 80 percent of participants apply to higher education programs Participants interviews

 

Local college records

Number of college-educated youth in community increases by 20 percent Local college records
100 percent of participants report acquisition of new job skills Participant satisfaction survey

 

Participant interviews

 

Program enrollment rate grows by 30 percent in the first year Program data Young adult crime rate decreases

by 5 percent

Local police records
75 percent of participants cite intentions to pursue higher education opportunities Participant satisfaction survey

 

Participant interviews

JCL receives a $25,000 grant from the local government to support growing YAEP Program data Average real estate prices in Jefferson County grow by $10,000 year-over-year Local real estate reports

 

The team soon learns that in its first year of outcome measurement, only short-term and some mid-term outcomes can be effectively measured, and data for the long-term outcomes will be collected as the YAEP continues to develop.

Focusing on short-term outcomes, Sue’s team analyzes the results of participant surveys and one-on-one interviews. The blend of quantitative and qualitative data provides them the rich results they need to report findings to program and organization staff, the JCL Board of Directors, and community funders.

The good news is that they’ve met all three of their short-term outcomes, a strong start to measurement. The team creates a visual infographic to capture collective data for dissemination to JCL staff. Sue sends all employees the document via email to provide context. She also prints and posts the infographic at the library.

For the JCL Board and community funders, the team creates a five-page summary of the data, complete with a section highlighting major themes. They include appendices with sample survey and interview results, which are given to the Board and referenced for community funders to access upon request. The report is both emailed to Board members and funders and printed for distribution at the following Board and Town Hall meetings.

Finally, Sue and her team act. Because first-year outcomes show high performance, the team asks program employees to nominate the top three YAEP achievers. JCL then presents awards and $100 Amazon gift cards to these well-deserving individuals during an all-staff meeting.

And with that, outcome measurement is complete… for the first year, that is.

Final thoughts

Effective outcome measurement is an ongoing effort, and Brighter Strategies understands it takes time, discipline, and sometimes outside expertise for success. We assist a variety of local nonprofit leaders in their outcome measurement endeavors, and would love to help you, too. Contact us for more details.

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