Nonprofits CANNOT Measure Long-term Impact

And you shouldn’t even try!

September 12. 2023

Maryfrances Porter

I welcomed 15 organizations including 35 people to the Fall 2023 ImpactStory Academy this season, and yesterday we had our second meeting. We talked about why nonprofits cannot measure long-term impact. And, I wanted to share some of that conversation with you!


What clients walk out of the door with

Your nonprofit is providing specific services to specific people for a limited amount of time. Your nonprofit is responsible for making sure your clients are able to receive and take advantage of everything you offer.They are going to gain things like a getting driver’s license, completing a business plan, learning about budgeting, engaging with art, gaining soft skills, feeling less depressed, a full belly, etc.

But, then they leave….


What happens next

Once someone leaves services you can no longer control what happens. The world is a complex and chaotic place. Your clients use what you gave them immediately, later, or (sadly) never. You have literally no control. Some nonprofits do work with their clients long-term. They are able to track change over time. However, again, once clients eventually leave, that’s the end of measuring impact.


Who measures long-term impact

Scientists do “randomized, treatment-control, longitudinal” research projects to determine if a program results in impact for participants months, years, and decades later. This costs a great deal of money, takes specialized skills, and often includes a whole staff person solely responsible for tracking participants over time.You do not have these resources and this isn’t your job!  (If you do want to partner with a scientist to become an evidence-based practice – that’s a thing. Let’s talk!)


Your argument for long-term impact

You can rely on research to defend why your programming is likely to result in long-term change.
Nowadays, there are LOTS of websites (e.g., The National Association of…) that review and summarize research so it readily available to practitioners. Find that and use it.


I also created a Resource Library with lots of accessible, free research summaries under the Programming that Works tab.

Learn more in the ImpactStory Academy!


Partnerships for Strategic Impact

At Partnerships for Strategic Impact®, I have all the tools to build out the structures and strategies you need for collecting actionable impact data; I train staff in how to use them, analyze data, and make action steps for change; I teach you to tell powerful impact stories. My goal is your sustainability: I provide just the right amount of coaching and ongoing support to ensure success.

This is within reach. It’s not harder than managing your budget. Plus, you, your funders, and the people you serve deserve to know more about the value your organization delivers.

If you’re reading this, then you’re already part of my network. Schedule some time on my calendar. There’s no sales pitch and no obligation. Just curiosity and answering your questions.  I am the seasoned program-evaluation, program-development, data-storytelling consultants you need, right in your back pocket. I am here to bring order to the process of figuring out how to track and use your impact story.

– Maryfrances

Your ImpactStory™ Coach


Want even more?

Check out my Blogs and Videos

Check out the Resource Library

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By Published On: September 12th, 2023Categories: Blog - Extras, Blog - Powerful Data Analysis, Blog - Programming that Works, Blog - Solid FrameworkComments Off on Nonprofits CANNOT Measure Long-term Impact