Maybe someday I’ll climb a Himalayan mountain to ask the monk there all of my questions about the universe, but I already know what he’ll say when I ask about program measurement. Let me save you the hike. There are two steps to effectively measure your programs and improve them based on performance:
OK, so I’d never ask a monk about program measurement and, if I did, he might be no more likely to say this than some Englishman named Christmas Humphreys. But that doesn’t mean that it isn’t ancient wisdom, or that it doesn’t apply to your very modern technology problems.
We, as nonprofits—and especially as those who support nonprofits in their program measurement efforts—like to throw around terms (read: jargon) and theories, geek out on technologies that can support these efforts, and list the best practices that we think every organization should consider. But put yourself in the shoes of someone who’s never undertaken any kind of program measurement. The bigger the list of things they should be paying attention to, the harder it is to start.
It’s sometimes hard to remember that organizations need to walk before they can fly. Just getting started measuring some kind of data, even simple metrics and outputs, is a positive step. They need time and a little experience before they can start to strategize deeply about impacts and longitudinal studies.
We need to remember not to build the mountain higher for those seeking enlightenment through program measurement. Anything is better than nothing. Our job is to help them take the first step and encourage them to take the second.
Begin. Continue. Begin. Continue. Begin. Continue…
Many thanks to Laura Quinn for her philosophical take on program measurement and the value in both starting and continuing the process. For more up to date information from Laura and her team at Idealware, follow them on Twitter @Idealware.