Indirect Service: How We Can Define and Share Our Wins

Nonprofit folks need support, training, and infrastructures, and so other nonprofits exist to provide them. Defining and proving success for those organizations can be a challenge when the ultimate client outcomes are too far removed or too slow to really claim impact. Here are two examples from the education sphere:

  • An organization that supports middle and high school administrations, which then work with their teachers and staff to move students towards graduation and college enrollment
  • A professional development institute that trains college access advisors, who then support students to apply, enroll, persist, and earn degrees

Meanwhile, funding conversations and requests consistently focus on ultimate outcomes (for students in these examples), which may or may not be aligned with immediate client or site work and goals.

So how do we know we’re succeeding at the first part without having to wait years for outcomes we can’t then directly claim? How do we change the conversation to raise money for the work we are doing every day?

We will discuss the pros and cons of different approaches to this problem with perspectives and experiences from a variety of organizations representing  program staff, organizational leadership, evaluation professionals, and funders. We will look at different kinds of measures and tools—ways to know we’re on the right track even when the really shiny outcomes won’t arrive for years, or when our contact is not directly with those who would achieve those outcomes. These may include rubrics managing performance, theories of change models, logic models, value propositions, and more.

Identifying the process, implementation, and cultural successes you can count right away allows you to highlight them with current and potential funders, as well as with the community at large.