Measuring Impact: Tools and Techniques for Evaluating Nonprofit Programs

Measuring the impact of your association programs is a crucial aspect of ensuring their effectiveness and alignment with your organization’s goals. In this blog, we will explore the significance of setting measurable goals, tracking key metrics, seeking valuable feedback from members. This is done through asking the hard questions to evaluate and optimize your association programs, ultimately maximizing their impact and value to your members and industry.

Set Measurable Goals 

The first step in measuring the impact of your association programs is to set goals for the program. Think beyond simple attendance metrics and determine goals that connect your program to your strategic plan. What impact do you hope to have on your members? How should the program advance your mission and vision? Should the program support the financial health of the organization or is it a value-add for membership? What impact do you hope to have on the industry? How does the program support your association’s brand?

5 Metrics You Might Not Be Tracking:

  • Percentage of members who say the program is key to the success of their business/career 
  • Percentage of a target demographic/audience you are looking to grow 
  • Likelihood a member will renew after participating in the program 
  • Net Promoter Score 
  • Percentage of staff time and association resources allocated to the project
Ask for Feedback 

As you can see, the metrics above will rely on getting feedback from your members. It can be difficult to get participants to reply to surveys, so it is important to reduce friction. If possible, get feedback during the program by providing a link to your survey while participants are still engaged (QR codes for in-person events work well). Send out surveys right before the event ends and again in 24 hours. While surveys are important, there are other ways to gather feedback such as making a few phone calls or hosting a focus group to debrief on a program. You don’t need to talk with a lot of people, just be sure to include representation of your different audiences and demographics.

Ask the Hard Questions 

The truth that makes evaluating programs hard is there are no “bad” programs. Each program was created with intention and great effort for the benefit of your membership and industry. That is what makes evaluating programs hard. There are no bad programs, but a program may not be serving you anymore. It is important to review your goals, metrics and feedback and not let underperforming programs languish. Ask the hard questions:

  • Is it meeting our goals?
  • If this program didn’t exist, would we start it today?
Align Regularly 

Association resources are finite. Everything we do has an opportunity cost – by doing that thing we cannot do something else. It is imperative you take stock of everything your association is doing regularly and ensure you are using your resources well. Design an evaluation matrix to easily rate programs side-by-side. Determine what you should continue, pause, reimagine or stop. (Resource: Program & Service Matrix from Race for Relevance, click on “Free Resources”) 

Program evaluation is an essential undertaking to ensure sustainable growth for your association and a lasting impact on your members and industry. 

Picture of Kim Paugh, CAE

Kim Paugh, CAE

Kim Paugh, CAE, has been with the RGI team since 2004. With her expertise in strategic planning and financial management paired with her experience in commercial real estate, engineering and amusement and vending education, Kim provides strong leadership to the associations she serves. She also serves as Director at Large on the board for Indiana Society of Association Executives (ISAE).