Reflections on Pathways to Excellence Workshop: Excellence in Managing for Results

Reflections on Pathways to Excellence Workshop: Excellence in Managing for Results

By Laurel Molloy, Innovations Quantified, Awards Selection Committee Member

Nonprofits often think the key to successful outcome measurement is hiring someone whose sole responsibility is data management. But during NPCC’s recent Pathways to Excellence panel on “Excellence in Managing for Results,” a somewhat different perspective emerged. Namely, all staff should play a role when it comes to measuring impact.

Based on insights shared by panelists, Muzzy Rosenblatt (BRC) and Amanda Kraus (Row New York), Executive Directors of two recent winners of the New York Community Trust Nonprofit Excellence Awards (a program that NPCC manages), here are some key roles and tasks for managing for results:

Executive Director:

  • Makes tracking and reviewing results a clear organizational priority. Even in the face of competing obligations, gives staff the time and resources they need to do the work.
  • Doesn't dominate the process. Recognizes the importance of many voices - to build buy-in and develop a reasonable measurement plan - and therefore asks staff at all levels to contribute throughout.
  • Reinforces good institutional habits. Ensures outcome discussions are regularly incorporated into meetings, reports, retreats, trainings, etc.
  • Emphasizes learning first. Conveys that it’s more important to review and learn from the data than to have results that demonstrate a “perfect” program.

Program Staff – Leadership and Direct Service:

  • Help ensure efforts are focused on the right things. Speak up to ensure outcomes, indicators, and measures are truly reflective of the work.
  • Collect data regularly. Realize data can be useful in informing their work, so make a point to capture it consistently.
  • Review and consider data. Work together to review and interpret findings, determine how to address emerging issues, and build upon successes. In other words, own the data.

Measurement Coordinator:

  • Takes many forms. Whether a dedicated "evaluation" person or simply a program leader, serves as primary coordinator of the results measurement and management process.
  • Champions the effort. Helps ensure everyone, including the Executive Director, keeps outcomes top of mind.
  • Assists staff in tracking, compiling and reviewing results. Advocates for needed resources (e.g., outside help, new database, a simplified process) and provides support to staff, but doesn’t do everything for them.

In addition to the roles played by key internal staff, the panelists also pointed to the value added by a few external players:

  • Board: connect more deeply with programs through data; avoid getting overly involved in day-to-day measurement efforts; use data to tell story
  • Funders: financially support outcomes measurement efforts; partner with organizations as they learn and innovate based on findings
  • Consultants: offer expertise; provide a valuable neutral perspective; help expedite progress
  • Managing for results is an ongoing process, often requiring steadfast commitment and follow through. As evidenced by the panelists from BRC and Row New York, having everyone play a role can help organizations develop meaningful plans, stick to them, and ultimately benefit from their hard work.