Ask Clients if Your Nonprofit is Meeting its Mission

Your mission is the reason your organization exists. Staff, resources and community support are dedicated to addressing an important social issue. The key question is: Are you meeting your mission effectively?

Most organizations have measurements in place to track and evaluate work. The results of the measurements are required by most funders and serve as the basis for important messages to stakeholders and supporters. Take your evaluation deeper and involve your clients. Ask them: What do you think of our performance? What impact have we had on your life? This process builds on present client evaluations.

You may already inquire about their satisfaction with programs and services, with staff responsiveness and overall impressions of your organization. The true impact you are seeking to make usually involves client outcomes, and some of them are long-term. For example, your mission might be to improve health, help clients manage finances or teach them to read.

One method of measuring impact – and mission success – is to administer pre-service or program surveys. Clients self-report where they presently are in terms of knowledge, health or ability. This is also an opportunity to ask about goals, perceived barriers and desired results. At intervals or at the end of the program, take another survey to measure results. Sometimes these may include asking about an increase in confidence and knowledge or improved situations and health.

Asking clients to measure their experience against their expectations is another way to discover whether you’re hitting your mission target.

Implicit in your mission statement is a promise to improve things for clients. Did you succeed? If not, why not? Finding out where you’re losing can be as useful as where you’re winning.

Surveys can be administered in several ways. Depending on your client base, some may be more effective than others. Computerized surveys are convenient for the organization and easy to take but not every client base is computer savvy. Don’t expect all of your clients to respond, although pre- and post-surveys have a good response rate because they are administered when services are accessed.

For clients with language or reading barriers, surveys can be taken in person or over the phone. The drawback here is the clients may be reluctant to be totally honest. Focus groups might get around this if the atmosphere is open and participants are encouraged to be frank.

Many changes occur over time and follow-up presents the biggest challenge. You might discuss long-term follow-up with clients initially and then have them opt in to participate. This may introduce some bias, but it’s better than no feedback. Alternately, you can do random follow-up surveys. These may have a very low response rate, and if people are satisfied, they may have very little incentive to answer surveys. They’ve moved on.

Meaningful incentives might be a way to improve client response, and they can be used at any stage or with any format.

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