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Demonstrating impact: 5 tips for reporting program outcomes

Emily Gahafer
Content marketing manager
February 12, 2024
A team using case management software to report program outcomes and demonstrate impact.

As a nonprofit organization or public agency, you want to focus on delivering the best services possible, but you also know that reporting on the work you do is key to creating even more impact in your community. Reporting program outcomes allows you to understand the effectiveness of your programs, improve programming, and ultimately demonstrate impact to funders to secure your funding.  

In this blog post, we’ll give you five best practices that you can use to make reporting program outcomes easier, more accurate, and more impactful for your organization. 

1. Create a reporting strategy 

The first step to optimizing your reporting processes is to come up with a clear strategy. Once you finalize your goals, timeline, and key players, you’ll be more equipped to make effective changes and get results.  

When crafting your strategy for reporting program outcomes, consider the following elements: 

Define your goals: 

  • Take a look at your organization’s priorities, your plans for supporting your programs, grants you intend to apply for, and existing grant and compliance requirements you must meet. These will all factor into the reporting goals you set.  

Determine required resources: 

  • Now that you have defined your goals, determine the resources needed to meet those goals. This could be technology resources or team resources.  

Assign responsibilities:  

  • Next, determine which team members can support each goal and the responsibilities required to reach those goals.  

Outline milestones:  

  • Finally, map out any milestones you need to meet before ultimately reaching your goals. This could include monthly report due dates to ensure you are watching program progress to meet grant and compliance requirements.  

Once you’ve outlined your strategy for reporting program outcomes, schedule a meeting to get your entire team on the same page. Emphasize the reasons you want to optimize your reporting practices, and be prepared to answer any questions about your plans. 

2. Determine which data best demonstrates your impact 

A crucial part of your new reporting strategy is the data you decide to collect. Rather than tracking every single metric available to your organization, it’s important to be strategic and determine what is the right data for you to track. This can vary from organization to organization depending on factors like program areas and compliance requirements.  

How do you know which data to prioritize? Focus on how you want to use your data.  

If your main priority is demonstrating impact to funders, for example, you should collect data that demonstrates that your programs are successful. 

Data examples: 

  • Number of participants who completed your programs 
  • Participant satisfaction rates  
  • Program outcomes or results 
    • Note: This metric will look different depending on your organization and goals. For example, a youth services organization may track mental health and education improvements for participants while a Continuum of Care Program (CoC) focused on homelessness may track occupancy and exit rates. 
  • Program ROI 
  • Program growth and improvement  

3. Specify clear reporting requirements 

To ensure your data and reporting practices stay consistent, secure, and equitable, you need to provide a clear set of guidelines and requirements for your team members. Create a document that includes the following information: 

  • Instructions for how to use the database 
  • Confidentiality policies for team members 
  • Data security protocols 
  • Specific reporting formats, such as using “St.” instead of “Street” for addresses 

Then, make this document easily accessible to all team members who will be involved in data collection or reporting. If possible, host these guidelines in your database itself for ease of use. 

Pro tip: Bonterra Impact Management provides a library of best practice templates to make this process even easier.  

4. Continuously review internal reporting practices 

In the months after your initial implementation of new reporting practices, don’t be afraid to consistently review what’s working well and where there’s room for improvement. Your internal processes should be able to grow with your organization’s changing needs and priorities. 

Evaluation tips: 

  • Involve team members in these discussions to ask for feedback on what is and isn’t working. Remember, one of the reasons you’re implementing these practices is to increase your team’s capacity.
  • Review the data you’re collecting to confirm you’re not missing any key metrics. 
  • If you’ve added a new program, ensure you are tracking the best information to illustrate that program’s value and impact.  
  • Update your reporting strategy, database, and internal documentation to reflect any changes to your process.  

5. Invest in effective case management software 

The most impactful thing you can do to improve your process for reporting program outcomes is to invest in quality case management software. Software with built-in, automated reporting features will help you streamline your processes, increase staff capacity, and craft a stronger impact story for funders. 

Key features to look for in a case management solution:  

  • Role-based restrictions to ensure data privacy 
  • Automated workflows that cut down on manual tasks 
  • Quick access to comprehensive reports and data insights 

Download our guide to learn more 

Establishing a strategy for collecting the right data and reporting program outcomes is key to improving your programs and securing more funding. Interested in learning more about demonstrating impact and common mistakes to avoid? Download our guide Reporting best practices: from outdated to modern reporting today! 

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Written by

Emily Gahafer
Content marketing manager
    Case Management