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NPF TIG Week: Co-creating Meaningful Metrics Across Teams by Emily Kalnicky

Greetings! I am Emily Kalnicky, Director of Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning at the non-profit Partnership for Public Service, along with being an independent consultant. I started at the Partnership in February 2021, and I am responsible for developing, implementing, and overseeing policies and procedures for all monitoring, evaluation, and learning activities, as well as building capacity for their use. 

One area of focus for me has been developing KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), as well as refining organizational metrics across our 100+ programs. This process involves collaborating with our program designers, senior leaders, as well as our development team, which focuses on grants, corporate partnerships, foundations, and individual giving. 

Below I will highlight a few lessons learned as I worked to collaboratively develop the first-ever KPIs for the organization and continue to work to refine our organizational metrics to meet the needs of our internal and external audiences. 

Lessons Learned

When building your timeline- double it! 
Identifying and modifying metrics for a non-profit with hundreds of projects at any given moment will take time. Further, if the organization is over 20 years old and has not previously identified KPIs, there may well be invisible barriers you will uncover along the way. One of those barriers was helping individuals understand what the difference is between a KPI and other metrics and understanding the role of KPIs for the organization. 

View potentially competing priorities as opportunities
It is common, as an internal evaluator working in a non-profit, for there to be perceived competing priorities for monitoring and evaluation among different teams. Some of this comes down to those invisible barriers of knowledge, interest, or time, but some can be differences between the need for a metric for internal program improvement versus the need for a metric for external fundraising. For grants and fundraising the metrics need to be aspirational yet achievable and highlight what the impact will be because of receiving financial support. For program managers the metrics need to highlight opportunities for continuous improvement and learning. Both development teams and program managers have overlapping goals of high-quality programs producing meaningful outcomes. Focusing on the overlapping goals of the different teams and individuals will enable a good starting point and help advance to a list of metrics that meets the needs of all. 

Co-create as much as possible 
As evaluators, we are generally trained to use best practices in human centered design, and co-create as much as possible, but this may not always happen due to time or other constraints. I learned that there were moments when it was best to work with one team at a time, and there were other times when it was best to have everyone in the virtual room at the same time. This will be unique to your setting, but at a minimum you will want to ensure to take time to co-create at every stage of your process. This generates buy-in and ensures the metrics will be both ambitious and realistic. 

Rad Resources

Below are resources I found helpful for thinking through the “how” (i.e., the design process) and the “why” (i.e., the bigger purpose of metrics) of taking the time to co-create meaningful metrics across teams: 

  • There are a lot of great resources on human-centered design (HCD), here are a couple:
  • When designing metrics, it can be helpful to think about what impact will make your organization be perceived as “big bettable”. 

How is your foundation staying grounded in L&E purpose and values? What’s working and not? Share your insights with our community.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Nonprofits and Foundations Topical Interest Group (NPF TIG) Week. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our NPF TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365@eval.org. AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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