A practical framework

Outcomes measurement for not-for-profits

We continually hear from our not-for-profit clients about the barriers and challenges that exist in pursuing outcomes measurement as part of their broader organisational strategy – for example, lack of measurement tools, funding, skillset and knowhow, particularly when tackling large-scale issues such as homelessness. As a sector, however, the benefits of obtaining this data are hard to ignore – measuring achievement of mission, demonstration of impact, business improvement, resourcing analysis, just to name a few.

The jumble of outcomes tools and standards currently available can be a confusing place to start, with many of these being outdated or lacking the context required to make sense in a local, tailored setting. To help simplify the process, Grant Thornton Australia together with Professor David Gilchrist of the University of Western Australia (UWA) Business School has invested significantly in the Outcomes Measurement Research Agenda. This research project is aimed at delivering practical information and tools designed to assist the human services sector in Australia to realise the opportunity inherent in outcomes reporting. You can read more about this project below.

As a result, we have created a simple and easy to use decision-making framework based on the learnings from our clients, this project and experience of the project partners. The framework assists not-for-profits in answering the following questions:

  1. Should your organisation report on outcomes? When and to whom?
  2. Where do they sit in your organisational reporting structure?
  3. What makes an outcome legitimate and worth measuring? How to perform a cost/benefit analysis.
  4. How do you identify outcome indicators?
  5. How can you overcome the common challenges and hurdles that your organisation faces?

Finally, we outline a 10 step process for identifying outcomes with a case study example. 

Watch our webinar on demonstrating impact in your organisation

Grant Thornton’s Simon Hancox and John Picot together with Professor David Gilchrist from the University of Western Australia held a webinar discussing the importance of demonstrating impact in organisations.

Click here to play the webinar

National Outcomes Measurement Research Agenda

Grant Thornton Australia and the University of Western Australia are jointly investing in a three-year research program designed to build the capacity of not-for-profits (NFPs) in the area of outcomes specification, measurement and reporting, and to provide practical and effective tools to assist them to respond to increasing demand for outcomes-based practices. The primary focus is on not-for-profit organisations providing human services.

Research objectives

The objectives of the National Outcomes Measurement Research Agenda are to build on previous work in this area to:

  • identify key issues related to the successful implementation of outcomes reporting frameworks in not-for-profit organisations providing human services;
  • develop and implement a research and practice program of high integrity and quality;
  • combine the strengths and experience of the research partners to ensure that their understanding and capacity is fully brought to bear on this program;
  • partner with the not-for-profit human services sector to ensure research outputs are reflective of the real situation being faced within the sector, that outputs are industry-ready and that they support industry requirements; and e create tools and resources that support the above and disseminate these as widely as possible.
The National Outcomes Measurement Agenda schedule

Figure 1: The National Outcomes Measurement Agenda

Outcomes: Research in Practice Reports

The results of this work have been delivered via a set of working papers intended to be read in conjunction and which present the results of consultative research focused on identifying the challenges, costs and rewards of outcomes reporting. The working papers in this series are:

These working papers have been developed and presented with a view to looking at practical applications and what is actually happening. Outcomes reporting is a very popular and often discussed topic – it is viewed very positively across the sector – but there are challenges and costs associated with the process that need to be considered and addressed by not-for-profits.

A schematic positioning each year’s activities undertaken by the National Outcomes Measurement Research Agenda is provided in Figure 1. In 2016, we developed and released our Working Paper No. 1 [ 4378 kb ]. It focused on the key attributes of effective outcomes measurement as well as the main challenges faced by the sector in pursuing such measures. It also describes in more detail the purpose of this research program.

During the following year, 2017, we released Working Paper No. 2 [ 1619 kb ]. This paper was based on research conducted in 2016 and focused on how human services organisations were measuring outcomes in practice. That is, it identified how organisations were defining, using and reporting on outcomes measures, the barriers they had experienced and whether or not assurance processes have changed to meet the needs of organisations reporting outcomes externally.

Working Paper No. 3 [ 3679 kb ] was developed during 2017 and published in early 2018. In this element, we undertook focus groups in three major cities in Australia, the aim of which were to establish organisational needs, to consider examples of tools and supports, and to examine reporting, assurance, procurement and policy issues—all in terms of the practical implementation of outcomes reporting within human services organisations. The results of this work inform the policy framework both internal to human services providers and external in terms of the human services sector and its articulation with government procurers.

The final working paper in the series, Working Paper No. 4 [ 4140 kb ] focuses on bringing together all of the learnings from this project and the experience of the project partners in order to present a holistic decision making framework relevant to outcomes development, measurement and reporting in an Australian human service environment. In this paper, we focus on developing an outcomes-centred organisational governance framework in which the major components of organisational management, governance and strategic direction are informed by outcomes developed at an individual client level, at a program level, and/or at a corporate level.

Outcomes: Research into Practice

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Outcomes: Research into Practice

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Outcomes: Research into Practice

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