Hetal Sheth 4/29/20 2:17 PM 16 min read

Outcome Tracking and Impact Metrics with COVID -19 Learnings

Are you an organization serving your community by providing healthy meals, protective equipment, mental health counseling, or education to the community about healthy practice? During this unique time of our lives in the Global Pandemic, we have seen many organizations providing much-needed services to help communities in distress. Programs like these are not new and may have increased demand. This kind of support will continue for quite some time, and maybe more humanitarian programs will begin as we learn the consequences.  

To learn, we need to better outcome evaluation. 

How to define key metrics to understand the positive and negative impact of your program in the communities? How to define your impact metrics leveraging the existing standards? In this blog, we will look at five aspects of determining your success metrics.



1. Keep an eye on the Outcome

Whether you have created a strategy based on the Theory of Change framework or the 5 Dimensions of Impact, make sure that your metrics align with your outcomes. If you are at the stage of building your Impact Strategy, then start here.

What is the Outcome? Your outcomes are the things that change for your community or beneficiaries. 

2-16For example, a fictitious Meal Service Program runs to provide nutritious meals to the front-line workers in this Global Pandemic time. The assumption is that Providing healthy meals not only enables them to work more and get necessary nutrition, but it also allows them to get some rest and ultimately keep them healthy. You want to have a metric related to how meals improve the well-being of the front-line workers. Why measuring Outcome important? Your program provides healthy meals with fruits and vegetables. If you never kept an eye on Outcome metrics and keep providing meals with mostly fruits and green vegetables, you will never learn that they may need more carbs and protein to work long hours and lifting boxes! So your program, while well-intended, might not be producing the expected positive results. 

2. Include metrics relevant to Output 

To learn the Outcome, you have to include some Output metrics. Remember that the Outputs are the immediate results of your programs and needed information to determine the Outcome. Following the same example of the Meal Service Program, once you make sure that the meals are well-balanced for the type of work that your beneficiaries are doing, you might want to include metrics like “percentage of the beneficiaries reached” and “number of meals delivered.” 

These kinds of parameters help you measure the reach of your program and the effectiveness of your activities. If you see that you are at the top of your capacity delivering meals but are still not reaching the majority of the beneficiaries, you can recruit volunteers or a partner organization to help you expand your reach.

Additional Metrics information in the Sopact resources. Interested in learning more about aligning your metrics to the available standards? Watch this short video below.  


3. Add Qualitative Metrics

While numbers are always useful and easy to analyze, you might want to include some testimonies, stories, observations, etc. These can capture aspects that you might be missing. As you deliver meals, people have specific reactions or make some comments. If you obtain this feedback, you might find a pattern that could help you serve them better.

For example, asking simple observation "What do you think of a free meal?", "Is it saving time?", "What is the quality of the meal?" or "Anything else might help?" Perhaps a simple text message with a poll can get the best feedback.

4. Bring more in-depth insight with Qualitative + Quantitative metrics

Qualitative feedback can bring some information, but you need to understand the causal relationships in the data collected to get the full picture of your impact. Many organizations opt for a correlation between quantitative metrics, which can be very helpful. But when you intentionally include qualitative metrics such as multiple options to understand the numeric values, you get better insights that you can act on. 

For example, as the Meal Service Program is disbursing healthy meals to the front-line workers, it will help to know how it is helping them? So you can complement with a multiple selection metric such as, “How meal provided to me helped?”

  1. I could work longer hours.
  2. I could get more rest.
  3. Meals that are provided do not suit my diet 
  4. I eat a lot due to the free meal service
  5. I gave them away as I have a caregiver in the house
  6. I am staying healthy due to regular meals provided to me 

The Meal Service Program would like to see many front-line workers say that the meal delivered to them helps them stay healthy, rest, and can work longer hours as a positive outcome. Especially in a time like now, frontline workers need to work long hours to keep the community healthy. 

5. Design Contextual metrics with a clear goal

Metrics should be designed with a clear goal in mind. Let us take a different example. If your goal is to understand the severity of COVID-19 by state, high-level metrics like “Number of cases” and “Number of deaths” don’t tell us much. 

 COVID 19 data

To see which state is doing better or worse, it is vital to see Total Death/One Million Population. Looking at this chart, it became clear that California, which stated “Shelter in Place” earlier in the state, had a significantly lower death per million “48” vs. New York has “1180” on a given date as per World o Meters. Also, even though Rhode Island has a smaller death that day, the Total Death per Million is 226.

"A more relevant metric would be Number of cases by ethnicity, economic status, and gender.” Or “% of cases by a pre-existing condition or chronic disease.”

Also, a more relevant metric would be “Number of cases by ethnicity, economic status, and gender.” Or “Percentage of cases by a pre-existing condition or chronic disease.” Zooming in these metrics into a specific community or county could provide relevant insights into that population's needs, rather than trying to have a “one size fits all” solution. 

Here at Sopact, we understand that defining the right metrics can be an overwhelming process. That is why we have included all the relevant standards in our metrics catalog within Impact Cloud®. We also allow organizations to create custom metrics for special programs and situations, like the one we’re living in today. 

Outcome Tracking and Global Goals

Outcome metrics: Depending on the scope of your program, you can use the Sustainable Development Goals or the World Bank as sources of useful outcome metrics. The GuideStar standard also has some good options for nonprofits and community foundations, and Bond for International Development can benefit international humanitarian programs. 

Themes & SDG-05

Output metrics: IRIS standard by the GIIN can be a great source of output metrics. You can even take their metrics as inspiration and modify them according to your context and needs. If you are a business trying to measure your social responsibility and governance, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) or SASB would be a great option for you. If your organization works on Water and Sanitation projects, UNICEF and USAID have great WASH metrics. 

I’m curious to hear what challenges you and your organization are currently facing when measuring what matters? Stay safe and stay healthy. 

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Hetal Sheth

The founder of Ektta, and co-founder of SoPact, Hetal holds a deep passion for establishing enduring impact management practices in the social sector to have built-in learning and accountability.