Steve Butz is Co-Founder and Chairman of the Board of Social Solutions Global (SSG).
Demonstrating effectiveness is a perennial challenge in the charitable sector. While leaving it at a philosophical discussion may have been acceptable in the past, the current economic climate demands a real, immediate response. Fortunately, many charities have already made this transition.
Services providers in the United States, as in the UK, have historically found themselves in funding environments that reward low overhead and a high volume of “lives touched” or “services provided”—but those days are fast coming to a close. The focus is shifting from general quantity statements about money spent or services delivered, to more sophisticated discussions relating to the quality of the service or programme, data on outcomes for beneficiaries, and cost savings to government.
So how is the sector adapting to this shift? NPC’s upcoming conference How to Measure Outcomes: Practical Tips and Tools promise to bring together experts in how to measure, demonstrate, finance and continuously improve effective programmes. It will set the scene on where all of this is going, and explain in a series of practical sessions how to move towards becoming an impact-driven organisation.
The ability to demonstrate effectiveness has obvious funding implications, but the interest in replicating effective services and programmes is also contingent upon shareable results data. Additionally, sharing data about your service (whether it’s positive or negative) helps advance the sector by adding to the growing body of knowledge about what’s working and what’s not. Community-level “collaboratives” have seen tremendous success with this in cities such as Chicago.
I am even more excited about the positive consequences this can have internally. By enabling each individual staff member to see in real-time the results his/her own efforts have contributed to achieving, you create a feedback loop that helps drive performance at the level at which services are provided. This not only more immediately identifies opportunities for improvement, but validates what staff already believe to be true—that the work they’re doing is making a difference (and if it’s not, provides valuable insight into where the more urgent improvements need to be made).
As a case worker, this was what motivated me to create Efforts to Outcomes (ETO) software: I was tired of believing that what I was doing was really making a difference—I wanted to know.
I look forward to speaking more about how high-performing organisations like Catch 22, Harlem Children’s Zone, and Nurse-Family Partnership have equipped themselves to communicate their value during my talk on Elements of an Excellent Performance Management System at the #outcomesevent on Wednesday, 4 June.