Author: Dr Clara Ong
4 mins read
You may have heard the saying, if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.
Outcomes measurement is a great way to learn what is and isn’t working. Armed with this information, you learn how to improve your programs for maximum impact, rather than treading blind.
As you start to see valuable outcomes data coming in, through the tremendous effort that you have put into setting up your measurement projects, take a pause and reflect upon how your organisation will be putting this data into good use.
In this article, I will summarise the different ways that you can use your outcome findings to be more for the beneficiaries you serve.
There are internal and external uses of outcome findings
By proving that you are delivering outcomes (or, if you are not delivering outcomes, that you are taking steps to learn what is wrong), you are well on the way to building paramount stakeholder trust.
There are both internal and external uses of outcome findings.
Internal uses include:
- Building beneficiary trust – beneficiaries provide illuminating insights into how effective a program has been, and they are more likely to provide honest feedback about their experience if they can trust that this feedback will be put to good use (and not used against them). Sharing your outcome findings with beneficiaries closes the feedback loop and builds trust.
- Provide direction for staff – giving staff visibility into the outcomes of their work will empower and give them a sense of purpose.
- Spotlight program issues and improve program design – not all programs result in positive outcomes. Some measurement projects may reveal that a program is simply not delivering its intended outcomes or worse, doing more harm than good. Your outcome findings can help address issues with your program before it is too late.
- Support internal planning and resource allocation – you wouldn’t continue allocating scant resources towards an initiative that isn’t delivering its intended outcomes. So use your outcome findings as a basis for making evidence-based decisions on where to direct funding and resources.
- Suggest benchmark targets for future program performance – not dissimilar to measuring the monthly, quarterly or annual financial performance of a business, continuously tracking your program outcomes paves the way for performance benchmarking, and makes sure that your program is operating at an acceptable standard. Your Board and leadership team will value these insights as they provide transparency and governance.
External uses include:
- Identify other agencies / partners for collaboration – having tangible outcome metrics and findings provide a framework for discussion with strategic partners and other service agencies who may also be working towards similar outcomes.
- Enhance organisational credibility and reputation – an organisation is more likely to earn a credible reputation from the sector, external donors, funders, and more broadly the general public, if it was transparent about its outcome findings. Sharing its outcome findings allows the organisation to showcase a culture of continuous learning and improvement.
- Retain and increase funding opportunities – as our societies move towards being more socially conscious, funders are starting to make funding decisions based on outcome merit rather than outputs. Sharing your outcomes journey and reports will demonstrate to your pool of available funders that you intend to make evidence-based decisions on how and where their money will be spent rather than going on gut feel.
Outcome reports are immensely valuable assets for any organisation that exist for a particular social mission or cause.
They provide insights into what is and isn’t working, and serve as a compass on how you can be more for the people and communities that you serve.
Getting to the reporting stage of your outcomes measurement journey is incredibly fulfilling and rewarding, so whether you are just starting out on your outcomes journey or are mid-way through, hang in there because the end result will have tremendous impact.