One of the greatest conundrums of the nonprofit world is how to measure success? Profit can be an ugly word within the nonprofit sector. Bottom lines and services sold just doesn’t feel right when talking about the difference that your nonprofit wants to make in its community.  Your organization came into being to make an impact on an aspect of our society and to make a tangible improvement in people’s lives. Yet the problem remains – how do you measure whether your nonprofit has fulfilled on its mission and is successful in making that impact.

Traditionally, nonprofit organizations measure effectiveness with outputs and statistics such as the number of people who attended events, the number of people served, or the amount of money raised. Are these measures that capture the true impact that your nonprofit is making?

How do you measure impact?

The challenge is that competition within the sector is increasing. Nonprofits and associations are fighting for dollars, donors, and members. This means demonstrating value for the money invested in your organization. Any stakeholder whether it be government funder, foundation, donor or buyer of services wants to know their resources are well spent and making the impact that they want to have.

The impact is deeper than just measuring outcomes and outputs. To fully appreciate this, you need clarity about what it is that your nonprofit wants to achieve. Mission-driven organizations that are wanted to have a difference in the lives of people need some other tools.

I have worked with several associations who have lost their connection to why they exist and the impact that they wanted to make. For example, a medical association that trains technicians exists to reduce the risk of medical error but doesn’t measure that. Instead of narrowing in on the why.  Boards get lost in wordy mission statements that are confusing. These mission statements don’t guide the board to make decisions and direct resources. They don’t inspire. They don’t help to bring passion and commitment volunteers into your organization. Does this resonate with your experience?

What is your why? Why is your why important?

In a sector that relies on so much volunteer engagement, nonprofit leaders can’t use coercive leadership tactics to advance the mission of the organization. Other incentives are needed. Why do people join movements or volunteer?

The answer is simple.

They are inspired. Something about your cause speaks to volunteers emotionally. Your nonprofit’s why gives your volunteers a sense of purpose and connects them to something larger than themselves. It moves them to give of their time and money. When inspired to do so, board volunteers will be act for the good of the entire organization because they want to and because it makes sense.

Does your organization know it why?

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