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Home / News

How to Measure Outcomes

2003-11-28 11:27:07

By Amy Luckey, Blueprint Research & Design, Inc.

For a more detailed discussion of these issues, the complete article can be found by clicking here.

The field of Nonprofit Technology Assistance Providers (NTAPs) is made up of a diverse array of organizations and individuals using varied methods to assist their clients. Yet, broadly speaking, most share a common goal: to achieve social good (however the particular NTAP defines it) by improving nonprofits’ technology infrastructures, capabilities, and uses. How the dots are connected between improving nonprofits’ IT systems and the larger goal of social good is often unstated or unexplored by NTAPs and their funders. As a result, it difficult for some NTAPs to persuasively communicate exactly what outcomes they aim to achieve, how their program strategies lead to the achievement of those goals, and how they assess whether and why they are succeeding.

From Blueprint’s experience working with and evaluating NTAPs, it appears that there are two predominant paths that NTAPs pursue between improving their clients’ IT systems and achieving the NTAPs’ social good goals.

1. Through operations improvements:

By improving their nonprofit clients’ IT infrastructures and technology management capacities…

NTAPs help improve their clients’ day-to-day operations…

Which can help the nonprofits pursue their program strategies more efficiently, productively, and at a higher quality…

Which can lead to greater fulfillment of the clients’ missions…

Which creates social good.

2. Through programmatic innovations:

By helping their nonprofit clients to use IT tools and methods to address their programmatic goals in new ways…

NTAPs help nonprofits pursue new program strategies…

Which can lead to greater fulfillment of the clients’ missions…

Which creates social good.

Whether an NTAP is able to successfully improve their clients’ IT infrastructures, capabilities, and uses, and how far these improvements lead down the paths toward achieving the NTAP’s larger social goals, is influenced by the NTAP’s program strategies and structure, organizational characteristics of their clients, as well as myriad environmental factors beyond the scope of the NTAP’s activities.

Four recommendations for NTAP evaluation efforts follow from this overview of potential NTAP outcomes: focus most outcomes evaluations on client IT and operations outcomes, rather than longer-term outcomes that are less directly influenced by NTAPs’ efforts; use findings from evaluations of exemplary NTAPs to inform evaluation designs for less established NTAPs; develop a common set of evaluation tools and strategies for the NTAP field; and pursue improvement-oriented evaluation to inform program design and development.

Attached documents:
- Full Article


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