The Tale of the Tape: What Gets Measured, Gets Done

Posted on December 1, 2014. Filed under: Assessment, Data, Evaluation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

Imagine for a moment that you set a goal to lose some weight. Assuming that you even needed to shed a few pounds (more on this in a moment), you’d probably weigh yourself to determine a starting point, and choose a weight-loss goal for yourself to reach within a certain period of time. For the sake of example, let’s say that you plan to loose 20 pounds in 12 months. Now suppose that you had no plan in place for achieving your weight-loss target (such as a change in diet or more exercise). Then imagine that after the initial weigh-in, you went the entire year without getting on the scale to gage your progress.  Sounds impractical, right? But that’s exactly what takes place in many organizations from year to year, with no real movement toward achieving goals.

You’ll remember that in our scenario, we set out to loose 20 pounds over the course of a year. At face value, this seems very reasonable. As a personal goal, it may have resulted from a physician’s recommendation, or we may be looking to improve our health, lifestyle, or appearance. It would be very unlikely, however, that our doctor would recommend that every patient lose 20 pounds. And, it would be equally unlikely for every patient to want (or need) to lose that amount. This is true in business as well, where annual goals should emerge from clearly defined directives or organizational-specific needs, rather than from perceived trends or guess-work. Not every workplace will need to set yearly goals for diversity, engagement, or client satisfaction. However, a few key questions prior to goal-setting should include:

  • Is the goal consistent with an organizational vision or mission?
  • Has a Board directive identified the goal as a priority?
  • Is there data to support the scope and nature of the goal?
  • How will success be defined?

Assuming the goal is a step in the right direction, a plan should then include periodic checkpoints to measure progress. This is an opportunity to conduct a formative assessment in order to determine if adjustments to the strategies for achieving a goal need to be made. At this point, it may be time to refine the plan, but not the goal.

At the end of the time allotted to achieve the goal, a summative assessment is conducted. This will measure the extent to which the goal was achieved. Returning to the weight-loss plan, we can claim success if 20 or more pounds were lost, and we can set a new goal to lose more next year, or to maintain last year’s target weight. However, we can still find value in the process if we fell short of the goal. This value exists in knowing where we want to be, how we plan to get there (following some adjustments), and how we’ll eventually know when we’re “done.”

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Nonprofits and New Year’s Resolutions

Posted on January 1, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

It’s a new year and the resolutions have already started.  At the beginning of each new year, approximately 40% to 60% of Americans make resolutions to eat healthier, exercise more, stop smoking, spend less money or make some other improvement in their lives.  And just like people, nonprofits also find themselves making resolutions each year.  Nonprofits generally make resolutions to increase funding.  But like people, many nonprofits find themselves unable to fulfill their resolutions.

Karen Eber Davis of Karen Eber Davis Consulting ( ) says that, “Listing resolutions to increase your non-profit funding is easy but setting ones you can accomplish is tricky because fulfilling income resolutions requires multiple actions, unknowns, unexpected steps, and frequent recommitment.  Funding resolutions that involve actions like these are impossible to keep.”  Therefore, Eber Davis advises that nonprofits “shouldn’t set resolutions to increase funding.”  Instead, she says that in order to avoid the negative experiences of failed funding resolutions, “do something better.  Instead of setting resolutions, set goals.”

Eber Davis says that, “Goals identify specific results; require learning and refining actions as you work; and require more than a firm commitment.”  She recommends to non-profit organizations the following steps in order to accomplish goals in the New Year:

1. Identify a list of outcomes you seek, like creating a more engaged fund-raising board, implementing a planned giving program or a developing a balanced budget.  For most non-profits one goal will usually include increasing funding.

2. Prioritize your list based on which outcomes are most important to you.

3. Select No More Than Three Outcomes. At least one goal should be something fun.  No need to make your work life torture.

4. Identify Next Steps. A step is a specific action you write on your calendar with a definite beginning and a definite ending. ‘Start planned giving’ is not a specific step.  It is too general.  An example of a specific step is, “Meet with Joe to ask him to be on the Planned Giving Task Force.” Once you complete the step, check it off and move on to the next step.

5. Plan for Realistic Incremental Progress. Avoid setting unrealistic steps, like trying to visit all twelve board members in January. If you completed seven visits last year, undertake a realistic plan of three visits per quarter.

6. Create Your Own Motivation. When you have a choice, motivate and please yourself.  Take time to think about what will motivate you to accomplish steps necessary to meeting your goals.  For example, if your goal is to spend more one-on-one time with your board members, find meeting spots that you enjoy and that energize you. And once you identify your incentives, write them on your calendar in ink.

7. Eat Peas First. Certain steps will need to be completed before others.  But when possible, complete the steps you like least in the beginning.

8. Evaluate Your Progress. Assess your progress briefly each week and in-depth at the end of each month. The evaluation process is a good time to identify and schedule additional next steps.

9. Resolve to Achieve Your Goals. Nonprofit organizations should steer clear of making resolutions.  But if you must make a resolution, resolve to do whatever it takes to achieve your goals.

For a free consultation and more information on setting goals for your non-profit call the HR4NON-PROFITS team at 630.830.4443 or visit our website at Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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