Measuring our success: How United Way quantifies community impact
The Boston Globe published an article about new ways in which non-profits work to quantify their success ("Nonprofits quantify their success"). Establishing real, measurable outcomes is critical to ensuring that our programs and efforts are effectively delivering for the communities we serve, and this article inspired me to share how United Way works to quantify our impact in the community. At United Way we collaborate with our partners in the Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley to ensure that we bring together the right resources, expertise, people, and passion to positively affect that community and address their unique needs.
At United Way we see tracking data and measuring outcomes as an essential approach in the path to creating large-scale community change. The key to moving from changing lives one individual at a time, to making a difference in reading proficiency, graduation or poverty rates, is to encourage organizations and government to track and measure the same, united outcomes. If we are all working toward the same goals, we should all be working together to measure our progress with shared benchmarks.
For the past five years United Way has required our network of 160 high-performing organizations to track and report on measurable outcomes in the areas of increasing school readiness, ensuring youth graduate, and helping families become financially stable. A key part of our strategy, noted by Root Cause as reflecting some of the most promising practices of philanthropic giving, is the alignment of our 160 partners against allied goals and outcomes in those three issues to create a bigger impact. As a result of our shared work, 82% of the 12,435 children who received early intervention have shown improvement. Even better, 97% of 25,300 youth who received academic homework help progressed to the next grade because of increased connections between schools and out-of-school time programs.
Tracking data and measuring outcomes is a great first step. To really turn around entrenched challenges like poverty and the achievement gap, a coordinated approach among nonprofits, government and funders should be the next frontier.