• June/July 2003
  • Vol. 4, No. 5

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Using Outcome Information to Improve Services

Many nonprofits are now familiar with the need to collect outcome information for external purposes, such as marketing and demonstrating accountability to funders. Unfortunately, fewer nonprofits are equipped to use outcome data to improve services to clients, by identifying what works and where improvement is needed.

The Urban Institute convened a symposium in 2002 to discuss the uses of outcome information by nonprofit organizations. Findings were published in the recent report, How and Why Nonprofits Use Outcome Information.

Symposium participants identified a number of factors that affect an organization's ability to use outcome information effectively:

  • Organizational climate. Does the staff have a sense of ownership in developing and utilizing the outcome measures?
  • Funding. Are adequate resources and technical assistance available to support the organization's data collection efforts?
  • Staffing. Are staff properly trained in outcome management activities?
  • Outcome measurement process. Are data collection tools easy to use?
  • Technology. Is the available technology (e.g., software) adequate for outcome management activities?

A copy of the full report can be obtained from the Urban Institute website at www.urban.org/url.cfm?ID=310464.

The Urban Institute also offers a guidebook, Key Steps in Outcome Management, with 13 steps nonprofit organizations can take to improve their ability to "manage for results." This guidebook, and future guides examining specific components of outcome management in greater detail, can be found on the Urban Institute website, www.urban.org.

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