How One Growing Nonprofit Began to Streamline Bookings and Track Program Outputs
Nearly everyone in the nonprofit world is talking about “measuring impact”, but what does that really mean?
Take a look at how one nonprofit addressed an operational need (to streamline bookings) and used the data collected to start measuring their impact. TEAMS Learning Center’s data intervention helps them understand who they serve and identify opportunities for improving their offerings. Plus they can now communicate with donors and funders in ways they never could before!
Read on to learn about how to start measuring impact, and how a relatively simple data intervention can be a powerful improvement to nonprofit operations, measuring outputs, and communicating impact.
TEAMS Learning Center
TEAMS Learning Center is a drop-in early learning center for kids age 5 and under and their families located in Wenatchee, Washington. As a nonprofit, TEAMS provides:
- affordable early learning sessions
- free and discounted early learning sessions to families in need
- totally free Stay and Play sessions for kids with their guardian
- parenting education
- teacher trainings
- family-friendly events
- kinder-readiness family classes
- an edible community garden, and
- volunteer opportunities galore
And it’s all open to anyone in the community.
The Need for a Data Intervention
Providing over 800 classes and events a year, TEAMS is a busy place that needed to streamline the “business side” of its operations. So, I met with the effervescent Teacher Joy (early learning guru, child whisperer, kind-hearted gem, and the Founder and Director of TEAMS) to hear about their organizational aches and pains.
TEAMS needed a (near-free) online booking system that would allow many class types, streamline payments, manage wait lists, and capture the oodles of participant information required as a childcare provider. They had a website with a booking system of sorts–but it was prettier than functional.
A pretty booking system alone just didn’t cut it.
And, I implored, they needed a system that would capture data about their services and participants to share the outputs of their work–something they had never been able to easily do before.
TEAMS Begins to Measure Program Outputs
Through our nonprofit affiliate, Grassroots Dataworks, we implemented a budget-conscious solution to make TEAMS’s bookings easy and collect the data they needed–even if they didn’t know they needed it yet.
The new TEAMS booking system:
- Reduced staff time by 20-30 hours per week, even as their services and number of participants grew.
- Allowed teachers to see all the participant details of who will be in each session and no longer have to maintain and organize paper files on each child.
- Made collecting payments–and enforcing a cancellation policy–easy peasy.
- Let participants join a wait list that automatically texts them the second a space opens up.
- And…the most exciting part of this project has been the ability to track program outputs.
Teacher Joy and her team know how many people their programs have reached, where they come from, and how it changes over time. They can gauge the success of new offerings and adjust accordingly. And they can better understand how many free classes have been sponsored.
Check it out….
TEAMS’s new booking system data, collected over the last year and a half, provides access to new insights about their program offerings and participants, including:
- Participant geography: How far do participants travel for TEAMS early learning sessions?
- Participation over time: How many people are served by TEAMS’s various offerings over time?
- Participant demographics: What are key demographic markers of TEAMS early learning participants? And how does that compare with area families?
TEAMS Participant Geography
The new booking system began to capture how far TEAMS participants came to participate. Not surprisingly, most of TEAMS participants are from the Wenatchee Valley. But TEAMS was surprised to see there are visits from around north central Washington and even from as far as Portland, Boise, and western Washington.
TEAMS Over Time
Use the slider to adjust the date range and see the changes in TEAMS’s favorite program metrics.
TEAMS Participant Demographics
A snapshot of 2019 TEAMS early learning participant household income, child age, and race/ethnicity follows. Each metric is compared with related publicly available data.
Unlike data in isolation, situating nonprofit metrics in the wider community context helps identify service reach, potential gaps of offerings, and opportunities for program growth.
TEAMS has testimonials for days. But anecdotes alone aren’t enough for successful nonprofit communication.
Securing support, sustaining grants, and donations requires weaving meaningful data into individual stories to tell the fuller story of the nonprofit. Funders seek accountability and a deeper understanding of the value of their investments.
Essentially, nonprofits need to measure and communicate the outputs and outcomes of their work, and ideally its impact.
- Outputs are typically meals served, “butts in the seat” metrics that are easy to capture. They are the first and easiest measurement step. Outputs most often demonstrate the reach of an organization using participation and demographic numbers–as the data from TEAMS above shows.
- Outcomes measure the effects of the outputs. For example: What did participants learn? Have their parenting skills improved? Are they more likely to be prepared for kindergarten? Outcomes show potential value of the work being done and are trickier to measure than outputs.
- Impact measures how much the outcomes are related to the activities of the organization. Are kids more ready for kindergarten because they participated or because kids who participate typically have more involved parents than those who don’t? Impact requires robust measurement and analysis but proves the value of a program (“evidence-based” as our friends in community health like to say).
Measuring key nonprofit metrics doesn’t have to be complicated. It all starts with tracking simple program outputs.
Even basic metrics, when tracked consistently and correctly, can tell a lot about a program’s success and opportunities for improvement. It can also explain the value of a program to funders that testimonials alone just can’t.
Simply put, your nonprofit needs to share program outputs.
If you’re interested in getting started with measuring impact or want to level up from output tracking to outcome and impact measurement, let’s chat.
How have you collected data in your nonprofit? What do you recommend for others looking to get started?
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