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Nonprofit outcomes tracking software: How it can help

September 22, 2022
A man and a woman look at paper charts and graphs created using nonprofit outcomes tracking software.

To make your nonprofit organization more effective, you need to measure the change your programs have affected by tracking outcomes. Outcomes is a nonprofit industry term used to describe the qualitative and quantitative conclusions you can draw from the outputs, or data points, your organization collects. Outcomes allow your organization to describe measurements of change, identify more opportunities for change, and demonstrate change to funders.

Let’s dive into how to better track outcomes, how case management software can play a role, and how one nonprofit has been able to track outcomes more effectively using outcomes tracking software. 

Use outcomes tracking software to turn outputs into outcomes

Before we discuss how case management software can help your organization track outcomes, let’s clarify the difference between outputs and outcomes:

  • Outputs are the quantifiable metrics and data points your nonprofit collects. For a youth organization, for example, outputs could be the number of students who attend an after-school program or how many school supplies you give to a school system. Even if your staffers don’t call the process “counting outputs,” your organization probably already does this on a regular basis. 
  • Outcomes are derived from the outputs you’re counting at your organization and measure the change you’ve enacted. You’ll frequently see outcomes in the form of percentages. For example, a housing organization may see a 20% reduction in homelessness, or a healthcare nonprofit may record a 45% increase in preventive healthcare screenings.

Outcomes tracking software simplifies the process of counting outputs and turning those outputs into quantifiable outcomes. 

With case management software like Bonterra Program Management’s Case Management solution (formerly Social Solutions), your caseworkers can consistently and quickly track outputs in one centralized location. This allows staffers on their teams and across departments to view that data, pull reports, and develop insights on the outcomes of the organization’s programs. 

How A Place Called Home improved outcomes tracking with software

Laura Mills, senior director of data and systems operations at A Place Called Home in Los Angeles, California, recently joined Bonterra and the Nonprofit Times for a webinar on what funders want to see from nonprofits. 

Laura said tracking outcomes at APCH has “been a thorny question for us, I’ll be honest.” Her story provides a snapshot of how case management can elevate outcomes tracking for any organization.

Before adopting Bonterra Case Management 

APCH’s history with data tracking is similar to many small nonprofits’ experiences. Without outcomes tracking software, it can be a challenge for nonprofits to identify their outcomes in a unified way. Here’s what Laura said about her organization’s experience: 

“We started like a lot of nonprofits as a tiny community-based organization in the basement of a church and the programs grew in response to community needs, so we didn’t always build in outcomes management as part of that program growth. And we’re really focused on, ‘What do our members need? What do their families need?’ And that’s not always going to be filling out a survey, although we recognize the extreme importance of doing that.” 

After adopting Bonterra Case Management

Laura said that, since adopting Bonterra Case Management and building up capacity at the nonprofit with the help of external consultants, her organization has been able to:

  • Create a new system of tracking outcomes. APCH developed this system by creating an organizational logic model and theory of change, which is something APCH didn’t have at the outset of its programming.
  • Ditch spreadsheets and track data in a centralized place. Unlike APCH’s previous method for tracking data, their new process is simple, efficient, and less vulnerable to errors and data loss. 

Even with great case management software, it can take many years for nonprofits to harvest the fruits of the organization’s purpose. 

“For a lot of youth and community development organizations, our ultimate goal is long-term, lasting change where people have sustainable careers and they can contribute as active members of their community,” Laura said. “So, we know even if we’re with a young person for 10 years they’re going to continue with that growth over the course of their lifetime and be different at age 30, 40, etc.” 

Laura advises the many organizations also facing this predicament to get creative in capturing and sharing the insights of their work. At APCH, Laura’s team looks at research, indicators, and the long-term outcomes shown by similar organizations that have been around longer. 

You can ensure the longevity of your own nonprofit when you can demonstrate your outcomes—and your impact—to current and potential funders. 

Start tracking outcomes at your nonprofit with Bonterra Case Management

Tracking outcomes at your organization can be straightforward and efficient. By implementing case management software like Bonterra Case Management, you can let us do the heavy lifting while you focus on driving change in your community. 

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    Case Management
  • Nonprofits
  • Coordinating social services