2 min Read
September 13, 2013

Impressing donors with metrics

Annie Hodges

I recently spent three days in idyllic Boulder, CO at the Unreasonable Institute’s Investor Days Conference. For those who don’t know, the Unreasonable Institute is a social entrepreneur incubator that hosts a handful of social entrepreneurs whose businesses have both profitable and social bottom-lines, and connects them with like-minded financial mentors.

The conference discussed questions that plague organizations of all stripes, including nonprofits, such as ‘How can an organization measure social good?” and ‘What does success even look like?’ While we may not have answered those tough questions (sigh), it did get me thinking about the growing role of measuring and communicating success (or failure) in the nonprofit arena.

And I’m not the only one. The Chronicle of Philanthropy believes that the ability of nonprofits to measure the success of their programs is now a “must have” rather than a “nice-to-have.” Other reputable sources, including the Nonprofit Quarterly and the Harvard Business Review, have written articles lately discussing how donors are now looking for more robust data to inform their donation decisions. Clearly, this topic is on the tip of many tongues and will continue to be a much debated discussion.

So, as donors get smarter, nonprofits increasingly need to invest resources into figuring out what all of this measurement mumbo jumbo is about AND how to best integrate these results into their regular donor communications. But how?

A wise Duck by the name of Rebecca once wrote a great blog post about visual storytelling and the immense power of an image. Infographics and photography are an excellent medium to convey metrics to your donors, especially since this data that can seemingly dry in not presented well. Want an idea of what the final product may look like? Check out an example here.  

It’s a tough world out there for nonprofits, dealing with smaller government budgets and more discerning donors. Nonprofits who choose to invest in measurement infrastructure and adequately relaying this information immediately to their donors will be well on their way to satisfying their curious patrons. But organizations that delay may find their donors being wooed away by more organized and strategic nonprofits able to articulate their effects to clients.

All of this sound overwhelming? Not sure where to start? Check out the Foundation Center’s resources on measuring social impact for nonprofits. They can help start you off on the right foot.