In the US alone, there are hundreds of thousands of mission-driven organizations that strive to improve the world around us. While we can observe their wonderful ideas, intentions, and actions, it’s often difficult to tell whether these organizations are actually achieving their mission because they fail to measure the impact of their efforts. Of course, so much has been said about the why, when, and how of impact evaluation that sometimes it gets hard to know where to start or what to focus on. We’ve compiled a few seminal articles that are must-reads for anyone looking for guidance in improving their monitoring and evaluation of their efforts.
Delivering on the Promise of Nonprofits, Jeffrey L. Bradach, Thomas J. Tierney, and Nan Stone, Harvard Business Review
Traditional businesses have the constant, measureable feedback of markets informing their decisions and successes, but mission-driven organizations don’t necessarily have that luxury. This article sets the groundwork for how nonprofit organizations can use their mission to provide measureable direction and not just for inspiration.
Seven Deadly Sins of Impact Evaluation, Matthew Forti, Stanford Social Innovation Review
A positive impact evaluation can be a big selling point for donors and stakeholders, but that alone is not reason enough to jump head-first into a full-blown evaluation. Forti provides seven pitfalls that are all too common among social organizations.
Measuring and Improving Social Impacts, Marc J. Epstein and Kristi Yuthas, Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Epstein and Yuthas provide a broad basis for understanding social impact measurement and evaluation. Here you will find an excerpt from the full book that introduces their five-step process that ensures nonprofits, companies, and impact investors are asking the right questions in creating social impact.
When Measuring Social Impact, We Need to Move Beyond Counting, Skoll World Forum, Forbes
Influential leaders from a variety of sectors and organizations gather each year at the Skoll World Forum to discuss hot topics in Social Entrepreneurship. This article presents some of the recent discussions, particularly that of making measurement count and the role of financial goals within a social organization.
Measurement as Learning: What Nonprofit CEOs, Board Members, and Philanthropists Need to Know to Keep Improving, Jeri Eckhart-Queenan and Matthew Forti, Bridgespan Group
The trend toward impact measurement has been spurred on largely by donors wanting to be sure that their dollar is well spent, and organizations wanting to attract more donors. However, Bridgespan points out that monitored programs have many other advantages that make measurement very attractive and they provide the path to get there.
Evaluating Grantees: Learning from a Top-Performing Funder, Caroline Fiennes, Stanford Social Innovation Review
Sometimes it is important to evaluate the evaluators themselves. This article provides insight into how the Inter-American Foundation performs so well in its reporting and evaluation process of the grassroots groups that it funds and evaluates.
Measuring the Bang of Every Donated Buck, Alice Hohler, The Wall Street Journal
Some individuals and organizations have a more capitalistic view of how funding should work. This article explores the attempts of groups and governments to refine metrics that determine the value created by an organization through Social Return.
The Limits of Nonprofit Impact: A Contingency Framework for Measuring Social Performance, Alnoor Ebrahim and Kasturi Rangan, Harvard Business School
Impact organizations agree that they need to measure their social performance, but there are differing opinions and approaches on how to go about this. Two Harvard Business School professors researched and compared across the array of thoughts and methods and provide a comprehensive framework for measuring social performance that suggests approaches should vary on several key factors. The full text can be found at the bottom of the linked summary page.