AwarenessSix Steps To Getting Your Organisation Outcomes Ready

December 7, 2020by Socialsuite

Author: Dr Clara Ong

7 min read

Key success factors to measuring outcomes is the capacity, capability and commitment of an organisation to implement change.

Before embarking on your outcomes measurement journey, it is important to first assess your organisation’s readiness to implement this change. 

Common Challenges faced by not-for-profit organisations

  • Lack of access to established outcomes measurement metrics and tools
  • Lack of funding and access to resources
  • Lack of staff capability
  • Limited capacity and time
  • Lack of support and buy-in from all staff
  • Lack of participation from clients/beneficiaries to provide data
  • Lack of interest or support from board and senior management
  • Diversity in service delivery and funder reporting requirements
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Stage 1: Awareness

This is the first step of your organisation’s journey to starting outcomes measurement.

Is an outcomes-driven culture already embedded within your organisation? Or is there still work to be done to seed that culture?

Having your Board and/or senior management team initiate an outcomes narrative within the organisation is important, but not an essential starting point.

As long as there is a spark of interest within the organisation, this can ignite conversations across teams. You’ve come this far in the handbook, so will you be the one who sparks that conversation?

Some of the crucial checklist items to work through at this stage of your journey are:

  • Board and Senior Management is aware of the importance of outcomes measurement
  • There have been conversations with the team (and across teams) about outcomes measurement

Stage 2: Internal Alignment

After you have sparked interest within your team around outcomes measurement, the next step is to get internal alignment and buy-in.

Getting organisational buy-in is crucial to the success of any outcomes measurement project.

Having the Board or senior management mandate outcomes measurement across the organisation might get things moving at the start. But not having support and enlistment from staff can lead to drawn out and incomplete measurement projects, due to lack of ownership in the process.

Likewise, without the leadership team sponsoring an outcomes-driven culture, staff will soon become fatigued and lose motivation to continue driving the process through the organisation.

Some of the crucial checklist items to work through at this stage of your journey are:

  • Staff understand the importance of outcomes measurement
  • There is staff buy-in and support to measure outcomes
  • We have set aside a dedicated resource(s) to oversee our measurement project

Stage 3: Commitment

Commitment is an action in itself, and simply committing to becoming an outcomes-driven organisation is a massive leap in the right direction. 

It could be as simple as going public with an outcomes narrative, through the sharing of impactful stories, case studies and committing to being an outcomes-driven organisation on platforms like social media, website, annual reports and internal strategic plans.

Commitment can also be more invested and hands on, such as creating opportunities for staff to attend training, webinars, workshops etc to build capabilities around outcomes measurement; or engaging a consultant to help define desired outcomes at an organisation-level. 

Some of the crucial checklist items to work through at this stage of your journey are:

  • Organisation shares an outcomes measurement or impact story on its website, annual reports, internal strategic plans
  • Opportunities have been created for internal capability building around outcomes measurement
  • Support has been enlisted to help the organisation align its mission with org-level outcomes that can be measured over time

Stage 4: Select Measurement Project

Once your organisation is ready to give it a shot, the next step is for you to select a Measurement Project – a program or initiative that you would like to measure the outcomes of.

For example, your measurement project might be to measure the outcomes of a youth mentoring program that has been running for the last two years.

Once this has been defined, it is time to list down what outcomes to measure and formulate a plan of how to measure. A good starting point is to jot down the benefits that the program is meant to deliver to its beneficiaries. 

For our mentoring program example, the outcome domains we might measure are:

Self-esteem

Well-being

Resilience

Independence

It can be daunting to develop a measurement plan from scratch, and you are not alone. Did you know, at least one-third of not-for-profits say not having a measurement plan and key metrics is a barrier to them starting outcomes measurement. This is why we have created a curated library of outcome measurement templates to help organisations get started easily. Click Here to Learn More.

Some of the crucial checklist items to work through at this stage of your journey are:

  • A measurement project has been defined
  • The key benefits and outcomes of the measurement project have been identified
  • A plan is in place on how the outcomes would be measured
    • We have a rough sketch of this plan; or
    • We have developed a plan in-house; or
    • We have engaged a consultant to help us with this plan

Stage 5: Data Collection

Being at this step means that you have already defined a measurement project, you have a measurement plan in place, and your frontline staff is out collecting the data.

While this step is a key milestone in the readiness journey, it is also the one where measurement projects can fail or come to a premature halt. This is due to factors such as:

  • Lack of participation from beneficiaries to provide required data
  • Significant investment of staff time and effort to collect the data
  • Staff becoming fatigued with an arduous data collection process
  • Low response rates, leading to lack of staff motivation to see out the process

To make sure that these data collection challenges do not jeopardise your organisation’s outcomes journey, it is important to ensure that there is staff ownership and buy-in to support the process, alongside an adequate level of trust from beneficiaries to provide the required data.

Click here to read our article for more guidance on how to overcome data collection hurdles.

Some of the crucial checklist items to work through at this stage of your journey are:

  • Data collection has commenced
  • There is staff ownership of the data collection process, and staff are supportive of the process
  • Beneficiaries are willing to provide accurate data

There are a number of great tooling options available to help automate and simplify data collection, hence reducing burden on staff. For example, Socialsuite automates data collection by automatically sending out follow-up surveys and reminders to beneficiaries with minimal manual effect.

Stage 6: Unlocking Insights

As you start to see valuable outcomes data coming in, through the effort you’ve put in at the earlier stages, take a pause and reflect upon whether your organisation is putting this data into good use. This is an important step towards embedding a sustainable outcomes-driven culture within your organisation.

There are both internal and external uses of outcome findings:

Internal uses include:

  • Provide direction for staff
  • Spotlight program issues and improve program design
  • Support the organisation in its planning
  • Guide budgets and justify resource allocation
  • Suggest benchmarks for future program performance targets

External uses include:

  • Identify other agencies / partners for collaboration
  • Enhance the credibility and reputation of the organisation and its program(s)
  • Achieve greater support for the organisation’s cause
  • Retain and increase funding

Some of the crucial checklist items to work through at this stage of your journey are:

  • Sharing outcome reports with all key stakeholders, including funders
  • Sharing outcome findings with beneficiaries, telling them how your organisation has acted on their feedback
  • Improving programs and services based on outcome findings

Are you ready for Action?

Getting your organisation ready for outcomes measurement is already half the battle won.

The simple act of demonstrating to key stakeholders, including your funders, that you are committed to the process is tremendously valuable in its own right, and sets you apart from organisations who are not prepared to take the first steps.

To help you get started, download our Outcomes Readiness Toolkit to assess where your organisation is at across the six stages we  just discussed. This process can provide great visibility on the areas that need further work.