Impact over Output

This week, we continue exploring data to drive us toward positive results.

It is important for all of us in the nonprofit sector to be able to show the impact of our work—the outcome. This approach moves us away from looking at the “outputs” of our work and focuses on the impact (outcomes) of our work.

So what does that look like?

Rather than measuring how many meals a food bank served, measure the benefits of healthy meals; rather than measuring how many students attend an after-school tutoring class, measure the difference in student performance.

Why is Impact more important?

The Council of Nonprofit addresses the reasons we should measure impact here’

As you begin your own journey of using data to determine impact, selecting and gathering the data is just an early step. You will need to analyze, then understand, what the data means. You will also need to help your board, staff and community to understand what it means.

The Schusterman Foundation has a great data “Playbook” to help with this part of your evaluation work. Find it at

Once you determine what data will show the impact of your work, you’ll want to start with some baseline data showing where things stand at a certain moment in time. The next task will be figuring out how to collect the data you need. There are many ways to do this. The Free Management Library offers information on data collection methods here: