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ICYMI: A new way to measure nonprofit effectiveness

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ICYMI: A new way to measure nonprofit effectiveness

How using a customer-first approach can revolutionize the social sector

September 29, 2023

This article was originally published by Stand Together Foundation.

Imagine if a nonprofit systematically analyzed all its programs, projects and products, determining their actual effectiveness in beneficiaries' lives. An organization could then prioritize the efforts that make the biggest difference, pouring scarce resources into proven—and not just promising—activities.

The impact would be even larger if nonprofits were measured against each other. Such a system would help identify the groups that are best at empowering people. And by highlighting the most effective groups, it can put pressure on others to become more effective. This is what our organization has aimed to do.

Over the past year, we've surveyed roughly 50,000 people across 25 metropolitan areas. We ask if they've sought services from a local nonprofit—and if so, which ones. If they have, we ask each person to rank the nonprofit's impact on their lives on a scale from 1 to 10 based on three questions:

  • Has the nonprofit transformed your life for the better?
  • Do you feel empowered to overcome barriers in your life?
  • How likely are you to recommend the nonprofit to someone in a similar situation?

These are simple questions, yet most nonprofits don't pose them to their beneficiaries. That's a shame because the answers clearly indicate a group's effectiveness. When a beneficiary says a nonprofit has transformed their life, empowered them to overcome challenges and earned their recommendation, they're essentially saying: This group is better than the competition.

This is the kind of information businesses use to measure their products and then improve them. Nonprofits can, and should, do the same thing. It starts with such simple steps as engaging your team to identify your offerings, surveying the people you help about their effectiveness and then adapting your work based on the results. Such a measurement system could be used within an existing customer journey framework. And partnering with other nonprofits could help you get an even better sense of your impact.

We're expanding our survey this year, increasing our range from 25 metropolitan areas to the entire country, and plan to publish our full findings so the public has a better sense of which nonprofits are most effective. Our goal is to get insights into every nonprofit in the country, and we're open to partnering with any group. Whether on a global scale or just within your own organization, this new approach to measuring impact is a chance to help every nonprofit make the difference it wants—not just managing social problems but ultimately solving them by empowering people to rise and thrive.

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