How Do We Know We are Doing Good?
Key Metrics for Trust-based Philanthropy
December 19, 2023
I think of this community as being one of philanthropists – in the true meaning of the word: “loving people.” This is a community actively loving people every day.
You’re on-the-ground serving people directly, or you are providing funding, or (like me) you’re providing additional structures and supports across the sector. Together, we are the three legs of a stool supporting the same value-driven vision of a richer and more equitable world.We are all pointed in the same direction of lifting people up and activating their power.
There are lots of ways of loving people. The Trust-based Philanthropy Project offers a way which is aligned with my values and focuses on “mutual accountability between funders and nonprofits, and [where philanthropy] reflects the needs and dreams of communities.”
They challenge funders to engage in practices which help “funders authentically partner with grantees in a spirit of service.”
Unfortunately, the power imbalance between funders and nonprofits can make this partnership wobbly. And, we are just beginning to build out the tools that help level that imbalance.
If nonprofits and their communities – rather than funders – define success, power is redistributed so that people
closest to the issues are able to define what is valuable.
Redistributing power is critical – but how do we find out if communities are getting what they need and want?
And, how do funders get that information (especially if they want to reduce the reporting burden for their grantees)?
Listen4Good is a funder-driven initiative that highlights the importance of gathering and using feedback from clients about their experiences as a tool for equity.
In responding to feedback, nonprofits are able to make changes that clients want.
Asking All the Questions
The ImpactStory Strategy stresses the sector also needs to ask clients what they received from programming. When what clients received lines up with what program evaluation science says they need for success, we can reasonably anticipate long-term change.
Nonprofits can (and often do) track client achievements like: getting a credential, moving into stable housing, achieving goals, finding employment, staying sober, etc. These achievements are extremely important results.
But what about everything else clients receive? What about all the non-material, internal things clients receive like: knowledge, skill-building, access to opportunities, overcoming of barriers, and confidence and motivation to move forward?
The ImpactStory Strategy highlights these client-generated measures of the “goodness produced” as a basis on which social sector partners can co-build knowledge and predict long-term success.
These metrics activate the full voice of clients. They provide information needed to improve programming so it’s not only better delivered, but so it better meets clients’ needs.
In the context of trust-based philanthropy, these (+ achievements) are the key metrics social sector partners need to sit down and talk about – to hold each other accountable for.
They provide the basis and benchmarks for assessing success in the immediate-term, so partners know they are on the long-term path toward their vision.
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Partnerships for Strategic Impact®
At Partnerships for Strategic Impact®, I have all the tools to build out the structures and strategies you need for tracking and using impact. I train social sector staff in how to use these tools, in how to analyze data, in how to make action steps for change, and how 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 partner 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.
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