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Choosing Metrics: Align your KPIs with existing Reporting Criteria

In today’s non-profit world, things can be chaotic. Reflecting on the most recent blog posts around strategic and action planning, getting the staff involved, feedback loops, key performance indicators, and accountability, I can hear staff and management saying “Hold it a minute, we simply don’t have time for all of that!”

Reporting Systems that Serve Multiple Purposes

I understand this. The goal is really to create systems that serve multiple purposes.

Finding the time to measure and evaluate yet another set of success criteria is overwhelming for the team, particularly as funders ask for more results to be measured.

For example, it isn’t uncommon for a funder to ask for the following:

  • # of people impacted by the project?

  • % of the participants achieved the goal (a job, improved communication skills, etc.)?

  • What benefits did the participants gain?

  • What impacts did participants comment on?

  • What stories can you share about the program's impact?

And that’s a simple list. Many funders ask for more and require reporting throughout the funding period.

I'm going to state the obvious here. Before considering your metrics around goals and objectives, take a moment to ask your management team what is already being tracked for other purposes. Likely, your management team can quickly provide you with this list.

Align Objectives with Existing Data Metrics

Define your goals, then ask your management team what is being measured and tracked currently. Are these metrics relevant to any objectives you need to set for your goals?

Let me state that a little differently, as this is important:

  1. Define your goal - what it is you want to achieve.

  2. Assess existing metrics. Do existing metrics provide the data required to measure the goal's success?

  3. If YES, choose that as the metric and clearly define the objective (#, %, action, etc.).

  4. If No, consider:

a) Is there a combination of existing metrics that provide the data required to assess success? or

b) What exactly do you need to be measured, and how can the Executive Director set up a system to track this information?

At no point should the essence of the goal be modified to fit the criteria associated with the objective (measurable unit). To review the difference between goals and objectives, read "Non-Profit Goals Unleashed: Connect Goals and Objectives for True Success."

If appropriate metrics don’t exist, collaborate with the management team to identify what and how the data you want can easily be collected.

In other words, don't build your goals around the existing metrics, but consider what metrics are being measured and see which are relevant to your Board's goal BEFORE creating a new metric to track.

Clear Objectives Improve Performance

Executive Directors can apply the same approach when establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) for staff success. What is already measured? Does it provide us with the information we need to assess progress?

Goals, objectives and key performance indicators
Clear objectives lead to precise key performance indicators.

Since each staff member's role is slightly different, their KPIs will likely differ. When the Executive Director (ED) reviews each department's action plan, they ensure that the responsibilities for each component of the action plan are crystal clear.

John will write the program report by March 15th. Susan will review and proofread it by March 20th. Jane will do a final review and submit it to the Funder by March 29th. This kind of clarity leaves no question about who is responsible for what. If John misses his deadline, then the ED must have a conversation with John about what happened and why the deadline was missed. And so on.

If it's not so much about the completion of something but rather about an increase or a decrease, the action plan should break this down into components that can be assigned. The goal is to find $15,000 in the budget for a public awareness/marketing initiative. There are two ways that these funds could be found: 1) secure funds through a capacity building grant (increase); 2) finding cost-savings in the existing budgets (decrease).

In this case, the goal and objective need to be broken down further strategically:

  1. Secure $10,000 through a capacity-building grant from Funder ABC.

  2. Cut costs across all programs by 3% to create cost savings of $5000.

Here is how this might look in a simplified action plan.

Action Plan
Action Plan interim report for discussion on finding $15,000 in the budget. Reporting period November 1 - 30.

As you can see each individual has specific responsibilities and when things are not completed as planned, it is clear who bears the responsibility for not doing their job. This makes holding individuals accountable simple and clear.

Where possible, align the metrics you choose with those being collected for ease of reporting for your staff and Management teams. Ideally, the staff should be able to report on their KPI’s, which in inform Management’s KPI’s, which inform Board KPI’s. When this occurs, reporting is simple.

In some situations, like the board-related goal above, choose objectives that can be answered with Yes / No. Did the task get completed? Yes / No. Where this isn’t possible, choose metrics that are easy to measure, don’t require significant tracking, and provide valuable insight.

As with most things, a little up-front proactive planning can increase organizational efficiency and decrease workloads for all involved.

What metrics are you already measuring? What system does your agency have in place to make tracking of metrics easy? What is working? What is not? Share with us below, let’s learn together!

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