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New Report: Case Studies on Using Data to Improve Programs and Services

By August 22, 2014

You might have gotten started with Salesforce in order to better manage fundraising and donors. It’s a common first step! Meanwhile, the heart of your organization — your program team — might still be using spreadsheets to track results. But being able to use data to demonstrate your impact on clients is vitally important in today’s funding environment where funders are increasingly requiring nonprofits to show clear quantitative and qualitative program results when you apply for or renew grants and donations. Tracking and measuring your program results in Salesforce can make the difference.

Idealware, a nonprofit that provides thoroughly researched, impartial and accessible resources to help nonprofits make smart software decisions, recognizes this struggle and released a report last week on “Nonprofit Performance Management: Using Data to Measure and Improve Programs.” This report, sponsored by Exponent Partners, provides numerous case studies of how nonprofits have successfully built frameworks, processes, and technology systems to collect program data in order to inform program and service strategies.

For those new to this topic, performance management is the discipline of making good decisions with data, and is the foundation for outcomes management. Outcomes management is the holy grail of impact measurement. It offers a guide to understanding how your programs and services are truly achieving results for clients, and where you need to make changes to ensure your programs and services are effectively contributing to your nonprofit’s mission.

It’s no surprise that several customers are highlighted in Idealware’s report, including Teach for All, The Cara Program, Exhale and International Youth Foundation. All are using Salesforce to track their program data and results.

For example, Teach for All uses Salesforce to compile and analyze data on their 34 affiliate national organizations, including Teach for America, which is trying to close the education gap in their countries by providing the best possible teachers for their schools. Collecting information on each program is crucial for Teach for All, so that it can help each affiliate organization’s model adapt to insure the best outcomes. As Andy Ho, Senior Director of Information Technology, describes in the report, Salesforce allows “Teach for America [to] compare itself against Teach for Estonia in a variety of data points, including the number of first-year teachers, number of students reached by the program, the number of alumni still teaching, subjects offered, annual operating expenditures, survey data collected from staff and alumni, and more.”

Getting Started with Performance and Outcomes Management

Idealware’s report also provides guidance on how you can start managing data for performance and outcomes management. At a high level, we recommend focusing on three aspects of organizational capacity:

  • Learn. The first step is all about researching best practices in performance and outcomes management and determining how to apply them to an organization. You might begin by building knowledge about performance management disciplines, defining your theory of change, and creating your outcomes framework.
  • Build. This is where the Salesforce platform comes in. If you are already tracking program data in Salesforce, you can start evolving your data tracking to match the new structures and frameworks you’ve designed. If you are not doing so yet, your outcomes framework will be a great guide to define the data to start tracking in Salesforce. In both cases, over time, your organization can develop your Salesforce program management system to support performance management and outcomes data, as you learn what’s helping you improve.
  • Adopt. As crucial as the prior steps are, it’s also important to ensure any Salesforce system is sustainable. By instilling outcomes thinking through leadership support, data-driven management, and cultural change, you can help create a data-focused culture and start your journey towards using data to better achieve your mission.

There are a wealth of examples of how nonprofits like yours are managing program data on the Salesforce platform and using it to better serve clients. The Idealware report will give you a place to begin, but the Salesforce community, including the Power of Us Hub, is a great resource to get examples, find advice, and learn from fellow nonprofit organizations.

Download the report

About the Author

Tucker MacLean

Tucker MacLean, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Exponent Partners, recognized the power of cloud computing to support organizations of all shapes and sizes while working at® in the early 2000s. In 2006, he shifted his focus from commercial clients to support Tucker also developed and managed the first dedicated Nonprofit Sales team and helped create’s nonprofit discount program. Tucker joined the Exponent Partners’ team this year and is excited about the opportunity to help nonprofits expand their use of Salesforce to all aspects of program management. Exponent Partners helps organizations build Salesforce solutions to track results, improve reporting, further missions, and increase impact. We specialize in cost-effective solutions on the platform that manage fundraising, student data, social services client cases, program data and organizational outcomes.