Refining Outcomes Tracking: A Perspective from Forty Carrots

February 15, 2016

MomDaughterThe Community Foundation of Sarasota County often uses The Giving Partner profile for Forty Carrots Family Center as a great example for nonprofits that wish to share meaningful information about their programs and services with donors and funders.

Even with its long history of successful programs and accomplishments, Forty Carrots’ team, led by executive director Michelle Kapreilian, is always looking for improvement. Together with nationally-known outcomes guide Hal Williams, the board and staff teams have embarked on an exploration to change the way they track and define program results.

Michelle recently shared five things Forty Carrots is learning from its focus on tracking achievement:

  1. A results focus is a mindset change for an organization. Forty Carrots included executive staff and its board of trustees in moving to this new perspective. It then trickled down throughout the organization.

  2. Moving toward tracking outcomes instead of activities is a process that involves some experimentation. Some of the changes worked as intended, but others did not. Forty Carrots took the successes and built upon them with continuous refinement. It viewed strategies that did not work as lessons for future decisions and changes.

  3. A results focus does not mean that an effective program needs to change, only how the results are measured. Michelle encourages mindfulness about not disrupting qualities that are key to program effectiveness or implementing processes where clients feel a need to “perform”. The focus should remain on understanding the real results.

  4. The “See and Hear” strategy can help drill down to the core of seemingly intangible and hard to measure outcomes. This involves looking at what you see and hear to identify whether a key indicator of success is present or absent, or that a behavior change has taken place.

  5. Discussions about the technology necessary to track your new outcome measures should be part of your organization’s investment. It begins with a clear understanding about what needs to be tracked. Understanding the technology choices available, investing in the right software, and staff training follow.

Seven local agencies in Sarasota are in the midst of finalizing a “small change project” with Hal Williams, in which they have taken an important program and refined the way they track and define outcomes.

The Forty Carrots case study and Michelle’s willingness to share it have helped our foundation and the participating agencies appreciate the process of this kind of work. It requires patience and commitment from all levels of a nonprofit team—from its volunteer leaders to the program staff.

We’ll be sharing more soon.


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