How to develop an outcomes measurement plan

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How to develop an outcomes measurement plan

Spending the time to plan what outcomes you will measure and how you will measure them will help make your efforts more efficient and effective. Just as your business plan and strategic plan are important documents, your outcomes measurement plan will help you know where you are going and how to get there. 1 

This How To helps you make the decisions needed to effectively monitor the outcomes of your work. It links to a number of other How Tos which will guide you through particular parts of this process.

If you are developing outcomes measures as part of your reporting requirements to the Tasmanian Government you might find it useful to first read How to understand the DHHS outcomes reporting framework.

As with all good project planning, this How To begins by getting you to remind yourself why you are doing this.

Be clear about what you’re trying to do

Why are you running your particular project or program? What is your program’s history? If you are just starting to think about outcomes you might find it useful to read How to write a Theory of Change. This is a way of describing the outcomes you expect to see happen as a result of your work.

Decide on how big you are going to make this job

By thinking about your purpose and the outcomes you are planning to achieve you have already started to set the boundaries of what you might measure. Here are a few more steps which will help you focus even more clearly.

Do a ‘stakeholder analysis’: Who are your stakeholders? Are they funders, Board, staff, clients, volunteers, donors, a steering committee? What do they want to know? Do they want to be included? Or kept informed? How and when will you engage with them?

Get practical: Make a list of what you’d like to know about each of the outcomes. What is feasible or possible? Are there things you have to know? Which of the questions on your list can you find answers to?

Here is a useful matrix for helping you decide which questions are important to try and answer:

 

 

Easy to measure

Difficult to measure

Significant and relevant to a stakeholder group or your organisation

Measure

Explore how to measure

Not significant and not relevant to a stakeholder group or your organisation

Avoid measuring

Do not measure

(Adapted from The Compass: your guide to social impact measurement by The Centre for Social Impact)

Click here for a data collection plan template which you can fill in as you answer these questions.

You should now have a list of questions which tell you what you want to know about each of the outcomes you are aiming to achieve. These can be called evaluation questions. You’re ready to think about data collection.

Plan your data collection

Set your performance indicators: What information is needed to answer your evaluation questions and know whether you are achieving your goals? The information that answers these questions will be called your performance indicators.

Indicators are the measures of whether progress is being made on an organisation’s or an individual’s outcomes or goals. Your funding agreement may ask you to think about baseline, benchmark or target indicators. Click here to read How to develop performance indicators.

Decide how you will collect your data: Will you collect stories or numbers? If you’re going to collect stories, will you use interviews or focus groups?

Click here for an article on ways to collect qualitative and quantitative data. 

Who will collect the information? And what training will they need in order to collect good quality data (eg ensure the forms are filled in properly, facilitate a focus group).

How often will the data be collected?

Here’s a quick guide:

Does your service provide one-off assistance, or time-limited assistance? If the answer is yes, it might be best to just record the client’s circumstances when they finish using your service.

If you work with clients for a longer period of time you may need to record their circumstances when you start work with them and then again when they stop using your service or program.

If your work is intensive, or ongoing, it would be useful to record your clients’ circumstances at periodic reviews.

Collect the data

Congratulations! If you’ve filled in the template you now have a data collection plan.

See below for links to How Tos that you might find useful as you collect your outcomes information.

Further resources

How to use Information Technology to improve your outcomes monitoring and reporting

How to meet ethical standards when you gather outcomes information

Ways to collect qualitative and quantitative data

How to analyse and report on qualitative information (stories, interviews, focus groups)

How to present quantitative information in your reports

  • 1.  This How To Guide is adapted from the Assessing Change: Developing and using outcomes monitoring tools, developed by Diana Parkinson and Avan Wadia for Charities Evaluation Services; The Centre for Social impact’s The Compass: your guide to social impact measurement; and the Evaluation Plan Template prepared by Theresa Doherty and Dorothy McCartney, Evaluation Consultants to Population Health Services, Department of Health and Human Services Tasmania.