In growing numbers, donors, governments and funders want clearer evidence that the resources they expend actually produce benefits for people. One compelling reason to measure program benefits is to see how agencies are making a difference in peoples’ lives. An even more important reason is to help agencies better understand the needs and strengths of their constituents, improve programs and communicate impact. Cowlitz County United Way’s focus on program outcomes aims to provide agencies with the tools they need to better measure the benefits their programs have for participants, and to refine our ability to understand agency impact in the communities they serve.
In 1999, Cowlitz County United Way completed a concentrated training on the concepts and techniques of outcomes measurement for each of our partner agencies. We provide on-going support and technical assistance when requested by agencies that are seeking funding from United Way. Our effort is sustained, long-term, and responsive to emerging demand and opportunities for area non-profits.
Although improved accountability has been a major force behind the move to outcome measurement, there is an even more important reason: To help programs improve services. Outcome measurement provides a learning loop that feeds information back into programs on how well they are doing. It offers findings they can use to adapt, improve, and become more effective. Down the road, being able to demonstrate that their efforts are making a difference for people pays many important dividends for programs.
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