Dear Expert: Our funders are asking us to justify the need to change our core programming.  What role can the Board play in shaping how we gauge the impact of what we do, how we determine what needs to be change and how we work with the staff to document the need for changes? Thanks — Confused & Befuddled

Dear Confused and Befuddled,

Determining program impact requires a great deal of courage!  First, the Board and staff need to be honest in asking the questions—and dispassionate in questioning the answers.

Collecting data to support either the need to continue or adapt programming can be as simple as including a feedback form for every client that is served.  Or as complicated as tracking changes in the lives of clients of several years.

Other organizations survey program participants annually, do focus groups of participants after the end of a program—facilitated by someone other than the staff person who delivered the service, or even have senior staff randomly contact clients with a short telephone interview.

In any event, each organization needs to define for each program:

  • What is the intended outcome of this service?
  • How does the staff evaluate its impact?
  • How do those we serve evaluate its impact?

Programming effectiveness is often about having the courage to ask “does this program accomplish anything for our clients”?  And to learn from the answers!

Keep asking your organization to reflect on both the questions and answers,

All the best,
Editor, Ask the Experts