Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How will we measure impact in 2010?

I was in the middle of writing a blog post about a community impact study when I saw that Give and Take featured a lively discussion (hosted by Ken Berger) about organizational impact and community impact.

I agree with Ken and Hildy in their discussion of impact. As Ken stated, many nonprofits do not incorporate evaluation methods in their organizations. This is important to keep in mind when we (researchers and consultants) study impact within nonprofit organizations, we must present evaluation tools that nonprofits will understand and use (See Carmen's research about nonprofit evaluation Nonprofits and Evaluation: New Directions for Evaluation). We must also work with nonprofits to create measures to study COMMUNITY impact as well. This is not an easy task but it is beginning to happen.

At the University of San Diego we studied organizational and community impact of the Nonprofit Leadership and Management program by conducting an extensive qualitative study to determine whether student-led applied projects conducted for nonprofit organizations had an impact on those organizations, and if so, to assess the type and duration of that impact.

We first studied if and how the projects were used by the organizations. We then asked questions that went beyond the internal workings of the organization to determine if and how the project influenced programming and future work. Our findings indicated that all of the projects were used in some form. In addition, respondents offered recommendations to strengthen the applied projects process.

This is an exciting first step for studying community impact of the Nonprofit Leadership and Management program at the University of San Diego.

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