This is the third article in our series, The Step by Step Guide to Tracking Social Impact
As an organization, you know you must measure something to demonstrate success, but what? Should your metrics be dollars raised or houses built or bottles of water supplied? Tracking social impact isn’t a straight and narrow process, there are several branches to consider and this week we’ll explore a more concrete element: metrics.
Let’s take another look at your mission statement. Pick out the clauses that describe exactly what you wish to achieve as an organization. Now, concisely identify what it is you do – whether that’s build houses for disadvantaged families or provide a platform for microlending.
You should be able to specify the tasks you carry out and the entities directly affected by your actions with ease. This is how you come up with meaningful and appropriate metrics for your nonprofit. It isn’t just about dollars raised, for example, if there is no context to how those dollars are spent.
Think of a nonprofit as a story
There is a beginning, middle and an end. The beginning is your mission statement – what you hope the outcome the story will be. The middle is the story itself – this is the real action and where you will be using qualitative elements to communicate the work your organization carries out. The end is a figurative, rather than literal, end point – the effects of the work you have carried out.
You need to define metrics that will demonstrate you have carried out your mission. These are the metrics you collect in the process: number of volunteers on site per project, number of people per household or community, number of people receiving loans, number of people paying back loans. In other words, know what you need to measure so you can report those numbers back as proof of completion.
Micro is just as important as macro. Tell individual stories. Make numbers relatable by translating them into personal, hyperfocused instances of your work. Give our other posts a read for more information on effective storytelling.
A couple weeks ago we touched briefly on the importance of quantification:
“Numbers reinforce the work you are doing by giving people a tangible understanding of your reach. As personal stories validate your activities by showing the distinct difference you make in people’s lives or on the environment, metrics highlight the scale on which you are operating. Both are important to proving social impact and giving people an understanding of the importance of your work.”
Although storytelling seems completely qualitative, the quantitative element to it all that validates the comprehensive mission of an organization. (And, it turns out, this goes both ways. Numbers alone don’t motivate people to become active participants for social good).
Metrics define your organization’s big picture, while stories make it personal and relatable. Both are important for proving impact, converting site visitors into active supporters of your cause and for allowing you to better analyze and improve the work you’re doing.