Tracking your progress and outcomes
Oftentimes, evaluating the effectiveness of a program or system occurs sporadically or not at all. Evaluation and tracking is vital for developing the next year’s workplan, budget, fundraising plan, and overall goals and should be incorporated into the development of a plan or program. Take these steps to set yourself and your organization up for success in the long-run:
- Activate a “performance management system” for your organization that:
- Identifies what outcomes you hope to see from your work
- Defines how you are going to track your progress toward those outcomes (i.e. benchmarks/ indicators)
- Install a system to collect and track that information, identifying who is doing the tracking, what database you’ll use to store it, etc.
- Schedule a timetable for program evaluation, where you use the data collected to learn about how effective your programs are and make changes as needed
- Regularly communicate the outcomes and impacts of your work to all key audiences (donors, members, volunteers, etc.) through annual written reports, newsletters, e-communications, etc. Consider incorporating measures into a dashboard or other display that helps people understand progress as well as the big picture.
- River Voices: Performance Management Systems: Are We Making a Difference by River Network
- Organizational Assessment Tool by River Network
- Evaluation and Outcomes by Nonprofit Resource Center
- Evaluation for Nonprofit Organizations by the Foundation Center