Completing the Circle: Some Thoughts on Why Measurement is Becoming Increasingly Important

ngos Monitoring and Evaluation donors sustainability accountability
Wednesday, 28 November, 2012 - 09:23

NPOs should invest in monitoring and evaluation in order to measure the impact of their work and promote accountability, among others 

As money becomes tight the field of social investment becomes more demanding and competitive. Increasingly, funders are having to report more stringently on not just the work that is being done in the field, but the impact of that work – what is being achieved and how. As always, there is downward pressure being applied on nonprofits to deliver the data.

But in South Africa the culture of measurement is weak. Many nonprofits just do not have the capacity or systems in place to establish a basic set of indicators to measure their work by, let alone implement complex impact measurement reporting. This problem is compounded in that it is difficult to get reliable data from the field and for it to be captured. And seldom is there time for the captured data to be analysed, interpreted and included into the strategic planning of the organisation.

The cycle of information is broken.

All this has to change. Nonprofits must build their internal capacity to measure the work that they are doing, if they are to remain competitive in this increasingly difficult market place. This is because when money is tight, doing good is just not a compelling enough motivator for funding.

It is therefore becoming critical that social organisations demonstrate that they are doing good. In doing so, they build organisations that are connected both to their beneficiaries and donors - in short they build accountability.

The cycle of information connects itself.

This argument becomes stronger as finances become harder to come by. The retraction of international funding and the need to connect to individual donors will result in the survival of the nonprofits who do not just do good work, but who report on their work and connect with their public. This is not a competition of whose cause is more worthy, but rather a playing field that will be levelled by who can communicate their work the most effectively.

Measuring impact is at the heart of this communication.

Jim Collins highlights this in his very readable booklet,‘Good to Great and the Social Sectors’.  He refers to the need to build brand so that your organisation can cultivate a “deep well of emotional goodwill and mindshare of potential supporters.”

How do you do this?

It is not actually about expensive marketing campaigns (as nice as these are if you can afford them). Rather it is about communicating measurement – consistently demonstrating the work that you are doing, your progress and challenges. In doing so, you build up a body of research that allows you to track your achievements and failures, innovate your programmesand deepen your impact.

Measurement is no longer the select field of researchers and statisticians. We all need to become monitoring and evaluation motivators if we want to be the nonprofit that continues into the future.

It is right that donors are becoming fussier about how we report to them and on what. It is unfortunate, but the fastest behaviour change in the sector is when donors demand something. Their demand for greater measurement and impact reporting should quickly force greater accountability and greater measurement.

And so we take the first step in completing the cycle to building a strengthened, trusted, professional and accountable civil society.

- Kerryn Krige is Programme Manager: Network for Social Entrepreneurs at the Gordon Institute of Business Science. She loves a good debate over coffee, so if you have questions / disagreements get in touch at krigek@gibs.co.za.

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