Our May book club featured Sheri Chaney Jones, author of “Impact & Excellence.” A book which focuses on data-driven strategies for aligning mission, culture, and performance in nonprofit and government organizations.
Sheri mentioned that though she never set out to be an author initially, her foray into publishing happened organically, and was borne out of the findings, and experiences she gathered while working with the Dept. of Ageing.
The Dept. did a great work in strategically using data aligned with the work being done, and this ended up saving the Dept. about $250 million in Medicaid funding, and helped restore its budget to original levels.
Looking further into how developing a culture positively impacted organizations, Sheri set out to study this in-depth. She then created high performance measurement survey, which studied how organizations used data, and how it aligned to their mission. Results from this nationwide study later led her to write the book.
Part of the findings of Sheri’s study was that organizations who have a measurement culture often experience higher organizations measurement scores, and are more likely to increase revenue, impact, communications, effectiveness, increased external relations, and stakeholder satisfaction.
Speaking further on reasons which social sector professionals give as to why they are unable to implement high-performance cultures, Sheri noted issues such as not enough time to collect data, time factor, cost, as well as level of expertise of staff. Sheri however pointed out that results show that there was no direct correlation between these barriers, and experiencing a high-performance management culture. In other words, they are mostly excuses, and are not really valid.
In order to implement effective measurement systems, Sheri notes that it is important to clarify, and select specific measurement attributes that are aligned with your organizational vision. Emphasis should be placed on output and outcome, and a critical question to ask is “why do you do what you do?” All these ties back, and feeds into to your logic model.
Also, it is advised that you choose no more than 5 – 7 organizational measures, and these are your common metrics across board. How do you figure out these 7 measures you may ask? The best way to go about this is to ask these 3 critical questions:
• Why do you do what you do?
• Why would a funder fund you?
• Why would people participate in your program?
Having answered the above questions, you should choose between 2-3 key outcomes. These include your major outputs, program cost and revenue, the people you’re serving, as well as their demographics. This is critical, because clarity in this area will help reduce disparities and stop perpetuating social inequities.
Her research shows that less than 24% of organizations understand the importance of how creating a high performance culture, and measuring impact ties to their bottom-line. This at the end of the day ties back to leadership. Sheri noted that leadership plays a critical role in this, and that characteristics of leaders who embrace the idea of developing a measurement culture for their organizations include the ability to be collaborative, valuing the evaluation process as part of continuous learning, appreciating feedback and embracing constructive conflict.
Sheri concludes saying “you don’t have to spend a ton of resources to implement a monitoring and evaluation culture in your organization. You can develop capacity, own this process, and make something great out if it for yourself.”