Performance Measurement: Putting It All Together

In our first performance measurement (PM) blog post we mentioned that nonprofits often have difficulty establishing a PM program because nonprofit measures aren’t as simple as a profit organization’s measures, such as profitability or shareholder returns. No PM framework is perfect, but a good PM framework is far more effective than nothing at all. A strong PM framework is even better. This is our core belief given literature reviews, working with client and some quantitative research that we’ve done. In this post we’ll sum up they key elements of a strong PM program.

Measure more than finance and outcomes

According to Behn’s study, when strategically leveraged, performance measures are a meaningful pathway towards key business functions including employee motivation, promotion, learning and overall improvement.

Measure to Motivate

Compare almost-real-time outputs with production targets to motivate all staff, collaborators, stakeholders, and citizens to do the things necessary to improve performance.

Measure to Promote

What aspects of performance do citizens care about? Use measurements to enforce your good reputation among political superiors, legislators, stakeholders, journalists, and citizens and prove that your agency is doing a good job.

Measure to Celebrate

Did you achieve periodic and significant performance targets? Celebrate accomplishments!

Measure to Learn

Disaggregated data can reveal deviancies from the expected. Why is what working or not working?

Measure to Improve

Examine relationships that connect changes in operations to changes in outputs and outcomes. What exactly should who do differently to improve performance?

Establish a well-articulated purpose for measuring

  • Does your staff understand why you are measuring?
  • Have you shown that the purpose of PM is more than correctional or disciplinary?
  • Do the positive purposes (e.g. celebration of successes) outweigh the negative by at least 3:1 or greater?

Establish a leader to run the effort

  • Is there a clear leader of the effort?
  • Has PM been made a strategic priority vs. something to do if it works and fits into everyone’s other work?

Create a simple program with clear definitions

  • A great number of PM efforts die because key definitions aren’t agreed upon (e.g. retention) or out of confusion about what a set of metrics represents. The KISS principle is alive and it doesn’t hurt to have one sheet with definitions.

Gather a board that is educated and engaged in the conversation

  • How does the board engage in measurement? Certainly not all measurement should make its way to the board. But metrics that make their way to the board will impact how they are used on a daily basis.

PM is a critical element of organizational success. PM intelligence allows you to see whether your organization is making progress on strategic objectives, and allows you to construct your organization’s next actionable steps.

How We Can Help

TVDA can conduct a data audit to help you read the story your data is telling, and we can make sure that you use your data to strengthen how your team approaches their work. We can also help you examine the performance measurements you have in place and give you recommendations to strengthen measurements and build on what’s working. We can enhance the story that your metrics are telling key stakeholders and improve the operational dynamic within the departments of your organization.


Behn, Robert. 2003. Why Measure Performance? Different Purposes Require Different Measures.   Public Administration Review 63(5): 586604.