My name is Najah Callander and I am a Manager in Community Investment at the United Way of Greater Houston (UWGH). The mission of UWGH is to help children and youth reach their full potential, create strong families and safe neighborhoods and help them thrive, keep seniors independent and living in their homes, and support people who are rebuilding their lives after a crisis.
As a grantee and a grantor, UWGH uses evaluation and outcomes information to seek funds from individuals, foundations and corporations as well as to identify and invest in quality programs and collaboratives that are making an impact in people’s lives.
Over the last three years, UWGH has moved from simply measuring outcomes to managing them. This new focus is about helping the programs we fund in four areas: 1) to make sure all their clients are benefiting from the program equally; 2) to know how well they are doing; 3) to know why they are getting certain results; and 4) to improve their program and tell their story to stakeholders.
For many years, the non-profit community functioned using outputs (counting units of productivity) to measure their effectiveness. UWGH’s new focus on continuous quality improvement emphasizes use of outcomes information to improve service delivery, maintain faithful implementation of program models and strengthen resource development. Together with our partners, we strive to demonstrate results.
Hot Tip: One commonly cited barrier to program evaluation, among non-profits, is that staff does not have the time or expertise to do a good job. Utilizing a local college or university can unburden non-profit staff and can provide valuable experience to university students. United Ways use students from colleges of social work, education, health and business to do evaluation projects. In addition to hands on experience with classroom taught techniques, students can recieve a stipend or have their results published by the non-profit.
Hot Tip: Consider creating affinity groups of like programs. Often in the non-profit world, peer programs and agencies have similar challenges and can benefit from shared learnings. Programs that compare their results with like programs, national benchmarks/standards and external experts are more likely to effectively implement changes that improve their programs and get results. Sometimes outcomes management in an affinity group can help non-profits discover areas where they are models of service. Organizations can further refine their programs to focus on their core competencies and collaborate more effectively to meet additional client needs.
Rad Resource: Analyzing Outcome Information, by H.P. Hatry, J. Cowan & M. Hendricks, the Urban Institute, 2004. http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/310973_OutcomeInformation.pdf
Note: Mike Hendricks helped UWGH develop our approach to outcomes and our emphasis on Outcomes Management. This is a valuable article to refer to on your own journey!
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