Designing Metrics: A How to Guide

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Metrics. They’re the key to understanding the growth of your nonprofit, a concrete way to show your effectiveness, and a means of ferreting out your weak spots. But while we might throw them into our annual reports because “metrics” sounds like a professional, calculated buzzword, do we really know the true definition of the term?

Metrics are, at their core, a way of measuring something. The social impact of your nonprofit may be nebulous, but when you write down your progress and goals in actual numbers, the bigger picture comes into focus.

Some metrics are easier to gather than others. Look into your organization to quantify your outputs: the number of seminars taught, emails sent out, or fliers distributed. If you keep careful records – you’re keeping careful records, right? - you should be able to pull up those numbers without much difficulty. Use these to solidify your nonprofit and build clout. With these metrics under your belt, you can begin to paint a detailed picture of your organization’s reach and abilities.

When you look past these initial facts and figures, you’ll find another series of important metrics: outcomes. Outcomes are the direct result of something your nonprofit did, and with these numbers, you can start to see changes your organization is making in real terms.

To obtain short-term outcome metrics, take a look at the measurable numbers you’ve achieved. How many people attended your latest classes, signed your pledge, or downloaded your information? These are all fairly surface-level and should be easy to calculate.

For a deeper dive into your progress, you’ll likely need to send out surveys. Craft questions that are easily answerable, and keep your survey short and sweet. Long, drawn-out surveys with complicated queries will only confuse your participants, and many will abandon the questions midway through or stop answering thoughtfully. Once you’ve obtained answers from across your demographic, use them to determine your participants’ satisfaction and progress.

As your nonprofit grows, you’ll collect more and more data. With this information, you can better understand your nonprofit as a whole and start looking toward long-term outcomes. These metrics are incredibly important, as they demonstrate the true impact of your organization. Use continual surveys, as well as the facts and figures you’ve gathered in the past, to track satisfaction, success, and participation over time. 

Creating these metrics may seem a bit daunting, but they are the true base upon which you can build your organization. Mockingbird Analytics is here to help guide you through the process, so when you mention “metrics” in your grant application or your glossy end-of-year report, you’ll fully understand the why and how behind your numbers.