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Time to revisit your nonprofit impact measurement strategy

impact measurement

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Ellen Szarleta is the Director of the Indiana University Northwest Center for Urban and Regional Excellence and an Associate Professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at IU Northwest. As director of the center, she works to create and advance community-university partnerships. Her research is focused in the areas of community engagement, nonprofit capacity building, policy decision making, sustainability, and civic engagement.

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Posted on 2017-05-01

‹ Back to the listing

Posted on 2017-05-01

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Nonprofit organizations courageously embrace the opportunity to effect change in our communities - improving the quality of life of their stakeholders is an overarching goal. They are experts in identifying resistance to change and strategically move stakeholders along the path of change. They recognize that time and patience are required. They also resist change and cite the work of helping others as the reason for resistance. Internal change management takes time and patience, both of which nonprofit organizations possess and both of which can be employed to improve and scale their efforts in the community. Assuming the power and discipline of change management is a challenge - but, the results will demonstrate that nonprofit organizations not only have the power to effect change - they can also empower others to do the same.

Foundations can guide impact measurement discussions.

One of the most effective actions a foundation can take it to become a steward of change management. Foundations can guide impact discussions, facilitate outcome definitions, support nonprofit activities, and evaluate change management processes, all of which are necessary steps in developing nonprofit organizations capacity for change. Foundation board members can actively engage in facilitating change management by operationalizing impact in a way that is meaningful to their grantees; leadership is essential as nonprofit organizations learn and practice change management. They can drive a focussed initiative for scalable social change like climateUntitled design (11).png

Here are some tips to help your organization achieve successful change management around implementing or improving your Social Impact Assessment strategy


Involve Key Stakeholders

Invite key stakeholders to be part of the preparation, especially those affected by or driving the changes, i.e. leadership, program managers, etc.


Communicate Intent

Communicate your intent to implement or improve the impact measurement strategy. In the beginning this might be done through information sessions open to anyone interested in learning more about the new impact measurement process. Remember that people are motivated by the outcome. Be sure to:

  • Expose the need for change to the whole organization.
  • Clearly describe how the change will benefit each area of the organization.

Break it Down

Don’t try to boil the ocean – start small. A small change is easier to control and observe the results. As you go along, small wins will motivate staff. In this case, you might go by Volumes: The Actionable Impact Management framework is already broken into 4 steps (Groundwork; Metrics; Data; Impact Report) that might serve as a reasonable guideline for your organization’s bite-sized chunks.


Identify Key Agents of Change

Identify the early adopters within the different departments – the individuals that seem most excited about the potential change and who want to be part of it. Next, provide those individuals with training so that they are well-versed in the objectives and goals along with the methodologies and tools that will be used to apply them. Throughout the process, these are the individuals you will want to keep informed and updated. They will help keep everyone else updated as well. Be sure to listen to their feedback. All this feedback will help you make small adjustments to make the change smoother.


Recognize those making the effort to adopt the new process. Show how the benefits are starting to happen. Communicate how this new impact strategy is helping your organization, either in terms of efficiency, effectiveness or any other element that is relevant to your organization’s culture. Try to adapt the implementation process around the organic inclinations of those involved. Also, using technology tools to make impact data management a continuous process can make it easy to communicate. 


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