Recently we were in a meeting with a grant writing client. During a discussion about measurable outcomes for the grant we were writing, we were discussing this organization’s client population and their track through the organization’s programs. We needed to figure the clients’ success rate for the grant proposal. After a few minutes of numbers, calculators and some logic, we had number. The only problem was that staff thought it looked low but didn’t have anything to compare it to to be sure.
How do you know your data-driven programs are successful? You compile and track data to report to program auditors, potential grant makers, your board and donors. But what do you do with those numbers besides put together you own reports? How do you know, besides using a year-by-year comparison internally, that your numbers are in line with other similar organizations?
Perhaps we’re not too off, we said in our meeting. We just didn’t know for sure.
Here’s where keeping up with the Joneses, so to speak, can really be beneficial. Do you have a friend or colleague at a similar organization either in town or across the country that is also keeping the same kinds of metrics your organization is? Is there an association for nonprofits in your industry or region that maintains data across multiple organizations? Has a study been done by independent researchers on the success of programs like yours?
Start thinking about who to call and what to Google. If you can think of two or three people who are going to know the answer, even better. How will you know how well you measure up if you don’t know where the benchmarks are? Good data internally, but knowing how it relates within your type of a program as a whole, will serve you well on those grant proposals.
And that’s something a potential grant maker will be happy to see.