ImpactStory

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Actionable Measurement Guide

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Guide to Actionable Measurement is driven by three basic principles: 1) Measurement should be designed with a purpose in mind — to inform decisions and/or actions; 2) Do not measure everything but strive to measure what matters most; 3) Because the foundation’s work is organized by strategies, the data we gather help us learn and adapt our initiatives and approaches. This guide includes a results matrix, definitions of terms in our results hierarchy, and a set of measurement guidelines intended to shape internal decisions about depth, breadth, and rigor of measurement across grants and within strategies. The guide also highlights the good practices they aspire to follow to be good stewards and not increase the reporting burden faced by our grantees or distract from their work.

Measuring Success How Robin Hood Estimates the Impact of Grants

Robin Hood fights poverty in New York City. The goal is to make grant decisions to maximize poverty-fighting impact, much like a financial manager chooses investments to maximize profit. The metrics project described in this manuscript has been designed to create just such a scorecard, showing ratios that guide investment decisions as financial rates and giving grants to programs that yield high benefit-cost ratios. Grant-making decisions rely on the detailed expertise of program officers as well as numerical calculations. Metrics are always under revision, a virtually never-ending project.

The Limits of Nonprofit Impact

Leaders of organizations in the social sector are under growing pressure to demonstrate their impacts on pressing societal problems such as global poverty. This Social Enterprise Initiative, Harvard Business School working paper reviews the debates around performance and impact, drawing on three literatures: strategic philanthropy, nonprofit management, and international development. We then develop a contingency framework for measuring results, suggesting that some organizations should measure long-term impacts, while others should focus on shorter-term outputs and outcomes. In closing, we discuss the implications of our analysis for future research on performance management.

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