How Making Friends with Metrics Can Build a Better Nonprofit

Getting people to understand the benefits of measurement and to actually delve into numbers is no easy task -- until now.takes the snooze out of analyzing numbers.
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Measurement is my thing. I started my career as a TV researcher, moved on to media research then marketing research. However, I know most people don't love numbers as I do. Getting people to understand the benefits of measurement and to actually delve into numbers is no easy task -- until now. Measuring the Networked Nonprofit: Using Data to Change the World by Beth Kanter and Katie Delahaye Paine takes the snooze out of analyzing numbers.

Before people will buy into the importance of measurement, they need to know why they should bother. For nonprofits, the ability to do more social good should be a pretty compelling reason. Measuring social media efforts helps you improve them, i.e. do more good.

Kanter and Delahaye Paine make this point very well. I'll throw in that's it's not just non-profits that can increase their social impact by using metrics. The principles laid out in the book also apply to social enterprises and socially responsible businesses.

The principles apply to evaluating programs and services as well. If you're confused by terms like "theory of change" and "cause and effect logic models," here's your chance to learn what they mean. This book covers these basics; it's a great primer.

The wealth of data and the speed at which it becomes available is mind blowing, even to someone who likes numbers. You need to be careful that you don't flood yourself with too much data, as Kanter and Delahaye Paine warn. Measure what matters. What that is will vary from organization to organization and may change over time.

The best part of the book is its wealth of practical how-tos. It's like having Kanter and Delahaye Paine holding your hand, anticipating your questions, and answering them. The real life examples will make you realize that if others can do it, you can, too.

The ultimate goal is to create a data-informed culture in which nonprofit decisions are based on data. This includes improving the value-added by your social media efforts.

Don't expect to build such a culture in one giant step. Take small steps. Go at your own pace. But remember: If you don't measure what you are doing, you won't know what is working or how to improve it.

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