Implement Tactics for Impact Management

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • List criteria for metric selection.
  • Explain processes for data collection and management.
  • Describe how to keep your audience in mind.

Choosing Your Metrics

Once your organization has established its goals and prepared a strategic evidence plan, the next step is to identify and select appropriate metrics (sometimes called “indicators” by nonprofits). Metrics turn a theory of change or learning agenda into an opportunity to gather and examine data to advance the organization’s goals.

It’s important for you to have a clear set of metrics to track inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes. These metrics should flow directly from your theory of change, setting you up to measure what really matters in order to evaluate whether you are truly advancing your mission. Avoid the common pitfall of measuring simply what’s easiest to track!

Note

Remember the Impact Management templates we introduced in the previous unit? When you’re ready to select metrics and collect data, we’ve got a template for that, as well. But first, there are some important considerations to cover about how to approach data collection.

Social impact executive reviewing data

Choosing the metrics to collect data on can set up your organization to focus resources where they’re most effective, improve your offerings, and measure the effect of program activities.

A comprehensive and clear set of metrics will track inputs (what goes into a program), activities (events that collect evidence), outputs (what the program does to achieve its goals), and outcomes (how program participants and the world are expected to change as a result).

Choosing metrics involves both theoretical considerations (“Will this measure something important?”) and practical ones (“Can I measure this?”). Begin with your theory of change—think about various aspects of your program and imagine how you might measure each one. Be practical, as well; even a metric that aligns perfectly with your theory of change won’t be useful if you can’t collect good data.

Metric categories that overlap, including Implementation and Outcome, Quantitative and Qualitative, Breadth and Depth, and Standard and Custom

Metrics come in different forms that determine how you measure and what data to gather.

Metric
How to Measure

Implementation

Gather data related to the number and characteristics of the individuals, organizations, or communities impacted by mission; resources used to implement services; quantity and quality of engagement and service delivery; and participant feedback. 

Outcomes

Measure changes that are expected to occur as a result of your programs. Outcomes can be short-, medium-, and long-term effects.

Quantitative

Determine outcomes that can be counted, such as number of jobs created. 

Qualitative

Identify descriptive or subjective measures that allow for a complete picture of your organization’s progress towards its goals.  

Breadth

Recognize your organization’s reach to beneficiaries.

Depth

Determine how deeply beneficiaries are impacted.

Standard

Pinpoint measures that can be benchmarked; metrics are established by research institutes or academic bodies, and are usually categorized by issue area or applicable to different types of practitioners.

Custom

Create metrics to tightly align with specific goals and to closely examine steps taken toward mission impact.

Collecting and Managing Data

Once the metrics are defined, the first step in data collection is to establish responsibility for each one. You’ll want to think about who will be collecting the data, how and where they’ll get that data, how frequently they’ll collect it, and where it will be stored. This is where the power of teamwork comes in!

Data Collection: The Who

Which members of your team have direct access to the data you’ll want to collect? These individuals can be seen as your organization’s VIPs on its Impact Management journey.

Data Collection: The How and Where

Think about how you will collect your data and where it will come from: Is it historical, administrative, or programmatic data (from your organization’s own records or from public databases)? Will it be collected by surveys or questionnaires, interviews, or observations and assessments of your target populations?

Data Collection: The How Often

The number of times that data should be collected during any time period will depend on the metric being collected. For example, metrics tied to long-term performance may require less frequent collection points in order to see a change over time for evaluation. On the other hand, data connected to measures being implemented daily (and that will affect programmatic decisions in the short term) will need to be collected more frequently.

Data Storage and Security

As you put data collection tactics into action, don’t lose sight of storage and security protocol. Because so much of the information you collect will be sensitive, you’ll want to plan for tools to manage, store, and secure that information—in terms of hardware and software costs, as well as an investment in understanding how to best use them.

Respect Your Audience

Let’s also consider how the whole data collection process might appear to those outside your organization. When thinking about your unique data collection instruments and strategies, keep a few key points related to data and respect in mind. 

First, make sure your questions are accessible and appropriate. Segments of the population you’re surveying will need to see themselves represented in your data collection tools, and that includes translation considerations when necessary.

Secondly, be sure it’s clear to others why data is being collected in the first place and how it will be used. Do participants feel and understand that you’re safeguarding the information they’re so helpfully sharing with you? What’s more, do they feel a sense of respect for their time and experiences? The data collection process can do more damage than good if doing so is rushed and doesn’t consider the perspectives of those outside your organization.

Finally, those outside your organization will no doubt form opinions about your data collection process and what becomes of that information. Donors will expect to see organizations like yours putting that knowledge to use for more impactful, streamlined services; the community will watch with eager eyes as your organization undergoes major transformation; and, of course, those impacted by your services will find relief when their lives are made easier.

With all of these considerations in mind, you’re ready to access the Data Collection Plan template as a guide. See the Resources section below for the link.

Before we send you on your way to choose metrics and collect data, we’ll review some of the technology tools and providers that can assist you on your Impact Management journey. More on that in the next unit!

Resources

Keep learning for
free!
Sign up for an account to continue.
What’s in it for you?
  • 1 in 4 land a new job
  • 50% receive a promotion or raise
  • 80% learn new technologies that boost their resume
  • 66% say it increases productivity
Source: Trailblazer Community Impact Survey 2019