Strong performance management systems provide the infrastructure nonprofits need to systematically collect and analyze data on how their programs are working.
New technologies are emerging that streamline data collection and make it easier for staff to track tasks – work once considered too onerous and time-consuming for most nonprofits to manage. Access to relevant data enables organizations to learn from their own experiences, make better strategic decisions, set realistic programmatic and organizational priorities, and assess progress on an ongoing basis.
With a strong theory of change as the basis, nonprofits can use robust performance management systems to make better decisions about what’s working and what can be improved:
- Program enrollment – Who is being served? What are demographic characteristics?
- Program participation – How often are these youth participating? What services are they receiving?
- Program completion – What percentage of participants is completing the program? What are the characteristics of participants who "graduate" and of those who fail to complete a program?
- Program quality – How many staff are delivering the program as designed? Which program components are working as expected or not meeting expectations? How are participants progressing through the curriculum? What additional supports might be necessary for those struggling to progress through the program?
Strong performance management systems are essential tools for building a results-driven culture; however, these tools can be used to maximum benefit only when the organization has committed itself to improving its results and training people to take full advantage of the technology.