Who does not want to save the world? When it comes to nonprofit managers, volunteers and staff, we are often quite focused on trying to right society’s wrongs and fix social ills. Many of us get involved with nonprofit management and social/human service work because we want to solve big problems and make people’s lives better. Unfortunately, we can be so determined that we can save the world that we forget to set reasonable and do-able outcomes for nonprofit programs and services.
It is important that nonprofit programs create reasonable goals and objectives and that planning documents allow for outcomes that can be measured and met. This means that while there may be an ultimate goal of ending world hunger (or at least hunger within the city limits), actual program objectives need to be clear and in measurable chunks that match the amount of staffing and other resources dedicated to solving the problem.
The goal of a nonprofit program is to provide services or meet community needs. It is difficult to track how successful the program is without first setting expectations and outcomes that can be reasonably met. For example, consider setting outcomes in terms of numbers of people helped, amount spent on services provided, or some other tangible means of measurement. Outcomes and measurements should be based on the program resources: staff, volunteers, hours allocated, etc. If there is no staff or resources, how will program outcomes be met?
In addition to setting reasonable program outcomes, make sure that there are systems in place to measure the activity. Whether it is through reports or some other means of tracking, be sure to collect data on the program activities to ensure that work is being done to meet those established outcomes. This will also help when it comes time to adjust efforts and evaluate the success of the program.