The Promise We Make as a Social Sector Leader

This is a guest blog post by Kate Robinson, Lead Coach of the Measuring What Matters series hosted by Mission Capital and the Evaluation and Learning Collaborative, as well as Executive Producer of Saving Philanthropy.

The Responsible Nonprofit

For nonprofit organizations, the concept of responsibility has taken on an entirely new meaning in recent years. Running a responsible nonprofit no longer means simply following IRS codes and making a positive impact. It now requires:

  • Documenting your programs’ measurable outcomes
  • Providing proof of effectiveness
  • Improving your fundraising diversity
  • Managing funds with transparency
  • Communicating your organization’s key messages to your audiences
  • Fulfilling your mission

Not a simple task for any of us.

Now more than ever, and with funding at stake, social sector leaders have a responsibility to fulfill our promise to improve the community. We ask individuals, who are facing a variety of challenges, to trust us in providing the needed support to overcome such challenges. We do this with the intent of improving the lives of those we serve, making our community, and ultimately our world, a better place. Depending on the significance of the promise we make, our organizations often take on a seemingly daunting task.

Keeping Our Promises

How we do we show our constituents and funders that we are making good on our promises – that we are being responsible? A promise to improve someone’s life, let alone an entire population, is no easy feat. The larger a population that an organization serves, the greater the impact they pursue, intensifying the need for resources. How can we move forward if we don’t know where we’ve been? I often see nonprofit organizations promise big changes and improvements without evaluating their current practices. Is what you’re doing now advancing your mission? Without a quantifiable answer to this question, it’s nearly impossible to scale your current work to produce greater outcomes.

Let’s take a realistic look at what’s required to pursue our mission by completing comprehensive evaluation to verify that our actions are advancing our goals. And even more importantly, analyze and track our progress as we work to achieve our mission.

Measuring What Matters

In Austin, a city fraught by many complex social problems, yet so rich with opportunity, we recognize the importance of addressing our community’s needs through the social sector. But, it’s also crucial to recognize nonprofit services must be evaluated to ensure we are making progress. The Evaluation and Learning Collaborative (ELC) of funders was formed in order to help their grant partners and the greater Austin nonprofit community do just that.

Serving as the lead coach for the Measuring What Matters (MWM) series hosted by Mission Capital and sponsored by the ELC, I’ve had the opportunity to help organizations determine if they are capturing the data necessary to evaluate their progress. Funders and grantees are stepping back from the front lines, and relying on sound evaluation to determine that progress is being made. Through the MWM series, the ELC is encouraging grantees to define what progress looks like for their organization and constituents, and supporting their ability to measure it in a meaningful way.

If we want to create lasting social change, we cannot rest on the assumption that positive outcomes are already happening. Regardless of sincerity, intent or hard work, progress needs to be measured, transforming your organization’s impact to a proven fact, documented and verified by data.

Interested in learning more about tracking your organization’s progress? Consider attending Mission Capital’s Outcomes Management Intensive  this fall. This intensive is designed to help you learn to effectively collect and use data to improve your programs, demonstrating your organization’s value to the community.

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