By James D’Ambrosio

Earlier in my career, I placed my value as an employee on hard work and effort, churning out press releases,  newsletters and other communications. While strong effort should always be valued, as I gained experience  I realized what it really takes to grow and maintain a vibrant organization: the results of your work.

This is especially important in nonprofit: It has been estimated that the Great Recession of 2008-09 and its financial after-effects may result in upwards of 100,000 nonprofits closing their doors! One way to reduce the possibility of this dire prediction coming true is for executives, managers and employees to heighten focus on identifying the desired results and bottom-line impact of their work. This is similar to writing a good resume, where experts recommend noting quantifiable accomplishments instead of simply listing responsibilities, which often carries more value with hiring managers. 


Social media provides another example. Social media is white-hot — just about every organization is leveraging the power of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others to reach potential stakeholders. And rightly so: there have been many success stories using these tools. But it’s not enough just to be on these networks. While you can quickly establish a Twitter account and gain 3,000 followers through a bit of tech savvy, if these followers have no connection to or interest in your cause, what have you accomplished? Basically, nothing. Social media is not a “build it, and they will come” enterprise. You have to find ways to stand out and attract those most likely to have an interest in your cause/mission. And that means investing time and resources in planning and evaluation. 


Prior to establishing social media accounts, ask key questions: a) Who is our audience? b) Where do they live? c) What are the demographics? d) How likely are they to use social media? e) Why should they care? f) What do we want them to know about us? g) What action(s) do we want them to take? In addition, evaluate results  through measurement tools: Twitalyzer for Twitter, Google Analytics for your Web site, and others. Taking it a step further, time and resources permitting, creating a formal social media plan would go a long way towards targeting your efforts. 

A similar approach can be used with other nonprofit operations — development/fund-raising, recruiting and training volunteers, programming, service delivery, special events, etc. To be sure, focusing on outcomes requires time and resources. But that cost can be more than offset by achieving better results and, in turn, enabling you to help more people in need or more aggressively advocating your cause. 


QUESTION TO READERS: How much emphasis does your organization place on outcomes? Any success stories to share?

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