Evaluating Progress Towards Your Mission Goals

By Marianne Downing

Many of us begin our New Year full of enthusiasm for setting challenging goals that make us better, stronger, fitter. Some nonprofit organizations also use the New Year as an opportunity to look forward to the year ahead, to set strategic goals. In setting these goals, does your organization take a stock take of progress already achieved towards your vision and mission, to inform the new goals and objectives?

The most effective goals will build on the successes and failures of previous plans. It is common to see regular reports to the board on fundraising activities and on the financial health of an organization. Reporting on inputs or resources used and outputs such as the number attending programs or serviced also feature commonly. It is an important principle that funding and even your very programs are tools and not ends in and of themselves to achieving the ultimate purposes of your nonprofit cause. When reviewing progress, it is a core function to take stock on whether you are on track to meet your vision and mission. This is not merely something that is needed to attract more funding from donors who are seeking to justify their dollars. So why is an ongoing review of your organizational progress so important?

  • Evaluation of program or service outcomes provide data that justify the very existence of a nonprofit organization
  • Data from evaluations is used to drive decisions on how funding is distributed, including the number and skills of staff needed.
  • A frequent stock take of progress towards goals will enable programs or services to be adjusted at an early stage and therefore increase chances for success.
  • When management and staff can see progress, it motivates and encourages more effort.
  • Nonprofit organizations are accountable to the communities in which they operate. Having some indication of progress towards meeting goals provides feedback to the community, enhancing its reputation.

The following article, while it evaluates the use of a specific scoring process for nonprofit organizations, goes in some further depth to understand the importance and difficulties of evaluating outcomes.

Read the article.

Contact us at Pathway Associates If you would like some assistance in developing relevant outcome measures for your organization or with assistance in monitoring outcomes.