One of our favorite company mantras (we even use it on our website) is the Albert Einstein quote – “not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” In the for-profit sector, measurement is more straightforward because all businesses have the same end – maximizing profit. It is more complicated in the social sector because each nonprofit has a different end – maybe it’s reducing disease, increasing graduation rates, or improving the employment rate. So, how do we measure what matters?
First, it starts as a solid foundation that consists of a strong understanding of your vision and mission and what ultimate impact your organization desires to create.
What do you want to build? Let’s assume you are an organization concerned about the unbanked and underbanked, esp. Hispanic households (of which 19.3% are unbanked according to the Pew Hispanic Center). Studies have shown that once families have access to and confidence in the American financial system and thereby build a credit history, they can achieve greater financial security and long-term wealth.
Second, it is important to build from the existing research on what works. If we are trying to increase the number of Latinos who are banked, what works?
What is your blueprint? According to research by America’s Society, “to tackle the crisis of unbanked and underbanked Hispanics, there has to be a comprehensive approach that incorporates financial education as well as the development of financial products that respond to the needs and characteristics of the Hispanic population.”
Third, it is essential to build upon existing programs and partners within the community to create an effective and comprehensive solution for the target population.
Who are your building partners? If you only provide financial literacy programs, you could partner with organizations who have built trust with the Hispanic community and/or a local credit union interested in providing services to this target population.
Fourth, once the program design is established and best practices are uncovered, it will be easier to construct a theory of change and logic model. Based on the research, you can uncover what measures typically “can be counted and count.”
How do you inspect and reinforce what you’ve built? Can you track the unbanked Hispanic population in your community? Can you track individuals in your program through various stages of change – knowledge, confidence, and then actions? We’ll cover evaluation planning next week and discuss this next stage further.
Many nonprofits make the mistake of starting at the end; instead start at the beginning with strong foundation and a solid program design. Utilize this process and your organization will discover how to measure what matters.