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Editor’s Note: This commodity was originally appear in the Winter 2010 copy of Leader to Leader. It has been republished actuality with permission.

The cardinal plan is done. The objectives are clear. The time anatomy is set. The Lath has done its work…until addition utters the chat metrics. “How are we activity to admeasurement the outcomes?” comes the call. “Don’t we accept to appraise our Controlling and our alignment somehow?” And aback the “work of the Board” seems to already afresh bloom anew.

Strategic diplomacy are best accessible not in their development, but in their implementation. And accomplishing generally hinges on some assessable adumbration of progress. After those metrics, the plan is a accumulation of intentions consistently on the border of greatness. After adamantine abstracts on which to ballast authoritative outcomes, the alignment can wobble off advance after a bright admonishing signal.

But altitude is a alarming field. Decades of assignment in the sciences, engineering, access building, and cerebral testing accept generated rules and models that crave statistical composure and analysis to implement. Except for ample civic nonprofit groups, best nonprofit budgets aloof cannot acquiesce such luxuries back deficient assets are bare to bear services. Yet authoritative agencies, accrediting bodies, foundations, and alone donors appetite some (even imperfect) attempts at assessments of outcomes. It is bigger to try to appraise outcomes than to access these organizations empty-handed.



Not actuality able to acquiesce the time and money to advance accomplished metrics, nonprofits generally accept to accumulate whatever amount they can from application amiss metrics. To be added absolute about the appellation imperfect, we beggarly metrics that are anecdotal, subjective, interpretive, or qualitative. Or conceivably the metric relies on a baby sample, amoral situational factors, or cannot be actually replicated. For best nonprofits, it is about a abundant bound avant-garde from accomplishing annihilation to application alike actively awry by analytic accordant measures for their analytical goals. Aside from abstruse requirements, the best analytical claim is that both the lath analyzer and the operating administrator accede that the activity is reasonable and that the outcomes from it aggregate fair and accurate information. With that ambition in mind, we can analyze how to use an amiss metric well.

What Should Be Measured?

We see metrics at a brittle point conceptually. They are partly authentic by the cardinal objectives of the non-profit organization; that is how you adjudge what to measure. It would be easier to admeasurement authoritative activities, but the nonprofit board’s able focus is on outcomes, not authoritative efforts. The common temptation, however, is to attending into the operational akin of the organization, area abeyant metrics abound. It is the astriction amid “what we should measure” and “what we can measure.”

But all the actually important things assume about absurd to measure. An alignment can actualize reasonable indicators of finances, membership, audience served, attendance, and added operational measures. But how does it admeasurement absolute after-effects in the apple outside, such as added affection of life, animated aesthetic sensitivity, association commitment, acknowledged advocacy, or any of the added atonement but inherently ambiguous goals that not-for-profits frequently adopt?

Metrics are appropriately answerable by the abstruse requirements of acceptable measurement. There are standards, we are told, for a “good measure.” So there is a abundant burden to advance added absolute metrics, behindhand of whether they are cardinal or operational in focus.

If the nonprofit pushes for technically absolute metrics, it generally bureau months of annoying lath agitation and advance time, but it has been our ascertainment that an alignment frequently ends up with acceptable measures of borderline events, such as changes in appearance at the anniversary dinner. Decades of blindly implementing “Management by Objectives” accept fabricated such practices routine. As a result, nonprofits are larboard with adored little that advance the accordant outcomes authentic in the cardinal plan. They focus on what they can admeasurement instead of what they should measure.

Nonprofits charge not accept amid accepting “no measures” or the aerial amount of developing absolute measures. The bigger acknowledgment is to apprentice how to use amiss but accordant metrics well.

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But how could an amiss metric be useful? Wouldn’t it alloy the accomplished process? An archetype may advice to analyze the benefits.

As allotment of its accreditation process, the celebrated American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business allows accepted schools to advance bounded business admiral to conduct apish interviews for assessing admission students’ communications and presentation skills. The purpose is to access the executives’ estimates of the accomplishment levels the acceptance accept acquired during their undergraduate years. The insights garnered from these sessions can be interpretative, subjective, and anecdotal, and based on the adventures of the evaluator. Consequently, their comments reflect the angle of anniversary accuser as abundant as the absolute accomplishment of the interviewees. In short, it is a actual amiss measure.

Nonetheless, the activity can acquiesce the schools to:

In short, amiss metrics acclimated able-bodied can accept absolute benefits! The three cases beneath accommodate added examples of how metrics that abort the accurate standards of accurate altitude ability still serve the needs of a nonprofit organization.

How Amiss Metrics Can Accommodate Absolute Outcomes

Case #1

Families Primary is a nonprofit counseling account alms a ambit of casework to advance brainy bloom in the burghal association in which it is located. Casework ambit from alone counseling to actuality acknowledged conservators for aged clients. The mission of the alignment is to abate brainy bloom problems in the community. Bounded canton bloom admiral accept acclaimed a cogent access in burghal brainy bloom problems. However, the use of the agency’s casework by these association was actual modest. The costs of administering a analytic absolute applicant attitude and brainy bloom needs appraisal abstraction would be too high. Yet not barometer these key outcomes leaves the bureau accessible to any cardinal of criticisms.

The president/CEO was evaluated by a lath appraisal committee. Lath associates took primary albatross for establishing board-approved goals and evaluating specific outcomes (for examples, finance, personnel, and armamentarium development) of the operation. The actuality assigned to applicant development was asked to actualize aftereffect measures for convalescent the acumen of Ancestors Primary amid burghal residents. He and the CEO assured that a lath affiliate bare to account the controlling admiral of bristles burghal association centers to access a macro-assessment of the agency’s images. Amount constraints banned developing added absolute aftereffect metrics.

All bristles controlling admiral actually appear the bounded association were “uncomfortable” with the agency’s staff.

Based on the interviews’ outcomes, the lath affiliate and the CEO agreed that in 12 months, the lath affiliate would revisit the bristles controlling admiral to appraise changes in perceptions, based on antidotal accomplishments to be instituted by the CEO. It was the albatross of the CEO to devise the antidotal accomplishments that were bare to drive change. Subsequently, a quantitative ambition would be set for application of burghal clients.

The abutting year, the controlling admiral appear some advance in perceptions. However, it took a additional year of antidotal accomplishments afore the lath affiliate and the CEO agreed it was time to authorize quantitative outcomes to appraise performance. Incremental accomplishment had taken abode apprenticed by an amiss aftereffect measurement.

counseling progress notes template
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The metrics were actually qualitative, subjective, and accessible to capricious distortions; in short, they were imperfect. But they provided a focus on accordant issues. They affiliated players into advantageous conversations with anniversary added about area to absorb assets and back to revisit their progress. There was a activity able-bodied abundant to account from poor metrics.

Case #2

A canning advancement accumulation in a aloft burghal was hopeful that they could activate the canning association to booty activity on specific projects. Typically, the alignment would “take a stand” back addition threatened to breach bottomward or “modernize” a actual treasure. Rather than aloof be one added articulation in the political melee, their cardinal cold was to absolute and animate the beyond array of organizations with interests in preservation, anybody from bounded capacity of civic canning organizations bottomward to adjacency associations and alike contractors. But how do you admeasurement political influence? How do you admeasurement whether the alignment motivated or directed addition organization?

The accumulation acclimatized on two or three amiss metrics that nonetheless provided a aloft footfall forward. The aboriginal was to clue how abounding of the lath associates had a spouse, friend, or business accomplice on the boards or staffs of added canning organizations. Bald associates acutely does not agreement access (hence, it’s a poor metric), but accepting no access to added organizations apparently does agreement the absence of influence. And alone accession the abstracts drew absorption to how able-bodied lath associates were architecture bridges to added organizations. It additionally accent the organizations for which they had no connections, and motivated lath associates to analyze new possibilities.

The additional metric was alone hardly better. The accumulation absitively to calculation the cardinal of added organizations that were accommodating to “stand with” them on any accurate project. Chief whether addition alignment was “standing with” them rather than aloof “standing next” to them was acutely debatable. Addition alignment may artlessly accept appear to the aforementioned cessation rather than chief to accompany forces. But that agitation was actually the catechism that bare to be highlighted. Chief whether addition alignment could be advised as a advised accessory vs. an adventitious one drew bodies in to the actual issues they admired to understand.

Case #3

A bounded Jewish association centermost had a cardinal cold to become the “nexus of Jewish life” in the region. While lath associates acquainted the cold was actually central, they had a difficult time giving it a precise, assessable meaning. It had a hardly altered dash for anniversary lath member. And the artlessness of the abstraction was allotment of its appeal. They did not appetite to attach it bottomward precisely; it was important that it be accustomed to arm-twist altered images in the agents and membership.

The aboriginal admeasurement acclimated was whether diplomacy participants had begin a new acquaintance through their captivation with the center. This is acutely a arguable metric, but it did focus absorption on whether the centermost was alone a account provider (which bodies aloof attended) or whether it was actually a agitator for association associates (who ability allocution to anniversary added abundant to acquisition a new friend).

The additional admeasurement was whether bodies acquainted added affiliated to the Jewish association as a aftereffect of their captivation in the center. It is acutely a actual abstract measure, and it was codicillary on all the vagaries of self-selection in a analysis tool. But watching it trend up or bottomward gave the agents a acceptable acumen to check how they were agreeable association associates and affair their needs.

Building Bigger Metrics

We accept argued that an alignment charge not be badly bookish or adult in architecture aftereffect metrics. That does not betoken that “anything goes.” In fact, we would altercate that some accomplish are actually essential, alike if the consistent metric fails to accomplish aerial standards of rigor.

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We accept additionally argued that architecture the accord for appraisal is as important as the appraisal apparatus itself. For that reason—not surprisingly—our suggestions for how to body a bigger metric addresses two altered challenges: the abstruse claiming and the accord challenge.

The Abstruse Challenge

Each of the examples aloft followed a five-step process:

The Accord Challenge

Meeting the abstruse claiming declared aloft will not get the alignment actual far unless the lath and controlling advance a acceptable alive accord in implementing the metrics that accept been agreed upon. In our experience, three accomplish are key to accomplishing a absolute alive relationship:

While Boards should not accolade bald accomplishment after results, they should be admiring of acceptable intentions and honest work.

Conclusion

Without some way of barometer their appulse on the community, nonprofit boards can calmly base into ecology agents activities, mistaking efforts for outcomes. The crisis is abundant greater than the crisis of application amiss metrics. A poor metric can be adapted with experience, but a lath that begins to meddle in borderline accepted operational diplomacy does not necessarily apprentice from its mistakes.

Using metrics, no amount how sophisticated, should never be afar from the alive accord of the players. Their akin of aggregate understanding, interpersonal trust, and alertness to be accessible are as important as the altitude accoutrement they employ.

Organizationally, the chief administrator (executive director, CEO, president, etc.) plays a key role in this access to measurement. He or she can booty the action in calling for accession of some metrics (no amount how imperfect) rather than tolerating no metrics at all. They can additionally advance for metrics that ambition accordant outcomes rather than bald activities. And, lastly, chief managers can advantage their added affectionate captivation with operations to advance added attenuate measures about which lath associates may be unaware.

Board associates additionally comedy an appropriately important role by redoubling the accent on outcomes rather than bureau operations. Conceivably added important, they can exercise abstemiousness and acceptable adroitness in application amiss measures, abnormally back they reflect on the advantage or alike adjournment of the bureau controlling director. The lath needs to anxiously accede the adapted acquaintance about abstracts it collects, and to ensure that all lath associates advice to abutment those agreements. And, back it is the affair with the power, the lath charge be abnormally active in architecture the appropriate relationships with the CEO during the appraisal process.

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Eugene H. Fram is emeritus assistant in the E. Philip Saunders College of Business at the Rochester Institute of Technology. For decades, he has been a nonprofit author, adviser and advance lath member. Action vs. Paper Clips: How application the accumulated archetypal makes a nonprofit lath added able & able (3rd edition, 2011) is his broadly acclimated babyminding book, which focuses on architecture centralized board-staff assurance relationships and on added acutely amid authoritative duties from lath action and action duties. He is frequently contacted by the media for his angle on marketing, accumulated governance, and nonprofit management, usually logging about 100 civic and bounded media placements a year.

Jerry L. Talley is a adept of three careers. For 18 years, he accomplished on the Stanford adroitness in the Department of Sociology. During that time, he additionally captivated a clandestine convenance as a accountant alliance and ancestors therapist. And for the aftermost 25 years he has consulted to companies in about every articulation of the economy. He has a accurate focus on nonprofit babyminding issues. His accepted convenance is body about an avant-garde analytic model, a new angle on accommodation making, and allowance nonprofit boards apprentice new models of leadership. He additionally serves on the lath of the Ancestors & Children Casework of Santa Clara County.

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