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How to measure outcomes of a program with 4 simple steps

June 13, 2021
A woman in a lab coat uses a tablet to show her colleague how she measured the outcome of a program.

Outcomes management is essential for today’s social service organizations to master. It’s no secret that your funders are looking for concrete outcomes that occurred as a result of their contributions. If your social service organization carefully plans and tracks outcomes rather than scrambling for data at the end of the year, you can easily meet funder requirements with less time, effort, and stress.

In this guide, we’ll explore how your social service organization can measure the outcomes of a program and tips for applying these strategies to your existing processes.

Evaluating nonprofit outcomes management

Following a well-defined strategy for tracking and analyzing participants’ progress through your programs can help you meet your goals and prove your program’s impact to funders. The process of measuring program outcomes scales well, streamlining data management even as your program grows. As your staff and workload increase, you can continue to track outcomes to advocate for more funding for your program.

Here are some specific steps you should keep in mind when evaluating your programs:

  1. Defining objectives: Before you can look at the outcomes of your program, you first have to analyze your goals and objectives. This ensures your organization will ask the right questions when setting up your reporting procedure. Your organization must make sure your program’s purpose is clearly defined and that you know how to measure “success” for each program. While some of these program objectives can be qualitative, be sure to place a focus on reporting the quantitative data that funders will be looking for.
  2. Data collection: Once you know which questions you are trying to answer, you can focus on what data you will need to collect to answer them. Make sure you have the right system set up for collecting these data points, like case management software. Additionally, make sure any caseworkers or other staff members who will be inputting data understand the larger picture and adhere to standardized data entry processes.
  3. Data analysis: After you know what data you need, you’ll need to figure out how to use it to demonstrate your program’s outcomes. Take the information you collected in the second step and apply it to the objectives you set in step one. During this part of the process, a good case management software solution can come in handy to help you understand how your data relates to your objectives.
  4. Data evaluation: Lastly, evaluate your outcomes management systems regularly (ideally on an annual basis) to ensure they are still serving the needs of both the organization and any funders on the particular program or project. When evaluating systems, ensure they will scale as your services and needs grow. 

How to measure nonprofit outcomes of a program with software

Having the right software tools in place can significantly ease the process of outcomes reporting. However, even the best software tool requires considerable forethought and planning from your social service organization. If you don’t already have a software solution in place for tracking outcomes, this should be one of the first things your organization addresses. Getting organized and effectively implementing an outcomes measurement strategy for your programs is crucial.

Bonterra Program Management’s Case Management solution offers a portfolio of products to help guide your journey in measuring your program outcomes. Capabilities include:

  • Tracking and analysis of demographic data of program participants
  • Referral management
  • Securely storing participant needs, progress assessment, and history information
  • Attendance monitoring
  • Identification and tracking of key trends
  • Monitoring and assessment of program and staff effectiveness
  • Determining which staff, services, programs, and efforts are the most effective at achieving desired outcomes
  • Reporting capabilities that allow for the reporting of multi-funder obligations in mere minutes

Learning how to measure the outcomes of your program is an invaluable skill for any social service administrator. While this process can be complex, the right solution can help you easily report your progress and outcomes to ensure your organization’s success. 

Find out how Bonterra's Case Management solution can help you measure your nonprofit program outcomes and deliver more impact today.

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    Case Management
  • Nonprofits
  • Public agencies
  • Coordinating social services