Understanding Indicators

Now that you've audited your existing measures, the workgroup should review these measures to determine what they assess. There are three major categories of indicators:

  • Organizational Health Indicators -- measure the strength of an organization’s infrastructure and its capacity to carry out its mission (i.e., financial, personnel, and material resources). 

    • Financial Sustainability

      • % variation between budgeted and actual revenue and expenses
      • % revenue mix (individuals, foundations, government, earned income, etc.)
      • # funders at various funding levels, $ amount, and % of revenue contributed
    • Team Capacity

      • # full-time and part-time staff
      • # staff hours devoted to each program
      • ratings of staff and volunteer satisfaction
      • Staff racial/ethnic diversity
    • Implementation Effectiveness

      • % milestones met
      • % goals achieved
  • Program Performance Indicators -- measure a program’s activities, the outputs (short-term results) produced, and the quality and cost(s) of those activities to determine how well programs and services are being delivered. These can occur in different program areas, including direct service, advocacy/policy, association/network and capacity building. 

    • Activities

      • average length of service
      • # member communications
    • Outputs

      • # clients served
      • % of participants who complete the program
      • # proposals developed
    • Quality

      • % clients satisfaction
      • qualitative interview data
    • Program Costs

      • $ amount per client served
      • $ amount for individual program areas
  •  Social and Economic Impact Indicators -- measure the organization’s or program’s outcomes (i.e., expected changes at the individual, family, system, and/or community levels as a result of activities conducted or services provided). These indicators also assess progress in achieving the division’s longer-term vision, mission, and goals -- desired social impact -- and the costs of achieving those outcomes.  Outcomes might focus on program participants, partner agencies and/or other affected stakeholders. Specific social and economic impact indicators vary depending on the nature of the program and the particular social issue the program is designed to address. 

    • Outcomes

      • % success rate
      • #/% of clients experiencing targeted outcomes
      • # policy changes implemented
    • Outcomes Costs

      • $ cost per successful outcome
    • Impact Generated

      • $ amount saved in social service costs
      • $ amount in new economic activity generated

Selecting Indicators 

  1. Use your performance measure audit to code your measures into one of the three categories.

  2. Align your measures with your logic model - Outcomes identified in the logic model should be measured.  Assess whether there are gaps in your measures. For example if you are evaluating the performance of a service program, do you have measures that assess program quality and productivity? Are you missing outcome measures? See Step 3 for guidance on developing performance measures to fill gaps. 

  3. Now compile a selection of the measures that will be most useful for your organization or program, using the audit and any identified gaps. Document these measures in the Master Indicator Template.  Begin the process of selecting a focused subset of measures to track over time by considering:

  • Your organization’s or program’s mission and vision statements, and your organization’s strategic plan  - these can serve as guides in selecting and developing the indicators.

  • Indicators used by similar organizations, or programs in other jurisdictions which may include suitable candidates and can be adapted  for your organization’s or program’s needs. Scan current professional literature for measures used in social science research on the field.

  • The multiple audiences for performance measurement information - including funders, program managers and staff, service recipients, and community members. Their perspectives should be taken into consideration in developing a program's performance measures. Identifying Who matters is just as important as What matters. 

More information on selecting The Perfect Metric. 

Root Cause (2009), Building a performance measurement system: Using Data to Accelerate Social Impact.