Measuring Performance: Creating Good Data Doesn’t Have to Feel Bad

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Let’s face it, nobody likes to be “monitored.” It tends to be invasive. But organizations need sound documentation to build trust with funders, staff, board members and other stakeholders. Creating trustworthy documentation entails monitoring.

So how can an organization like yours avoid tension? The answer is one simple word: inclusion.

When the team responsible for setting up the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) process includes the team that will carry it out, they build understanding and transparency that can cut through the challenges of being watched.

Working smart

A successful evaluation method clarifies what constitutes “good performance” and the knowledge of when an organization hits or misses this defined standard.  The key to good goals and objectives is captured in the acronym SMART:

  • Scientific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time based

But the truly “smart” organization defines the division of labor between those that implement the project and those that observe the implementation. They can agree on the desired outcome, working collaboratively to arrive at the SMART goals and objectives.

Getting buy-in early on in the process will go a long way to easing tensions later on – especially if, when the results are in, the data does not reflect the desired outcomes.

Designing a sound research process

A research process is only as good as its planning.

If your organization doesn’t have the time or resources to assemble an expert team to carry out the necessary M&E measures, you’re not alone. Most organizations don’t. Even if they have the resources, they could and should use them for more critical aspects of program or project implantation.

Fortunately, choosing the design does not have to be an extensive project.  The key is to use a time-tested process where the link between evaluation methodology and the projected outcomes is clear. An approach known as a “logic model” produces a short, easy-to-share diagram that explains the fundamental steps:

  • Inputs—what your organization needs to carry out its work
  • Program/Projects—what your organization plans to do
  • Outputs—what results it expects
  • Outcomes/Impact—how these results will create the change you promise in your mission

When the M&E team begins its work by talking with stakeholders, everyone, especially the people who will be “monitored,” understands the reason for the process. The next crucial step is to invite the implementation team into the planning process so that when the results are in, they will be sound and helpful.

The result is a transparent and inclusive approach that paves the way for successful evaluation.

Want to know more about Measurement and Evaluation? Check out these other Foundation Center resources:


CHIOMA ORUH is a management and policy analyst, consultant and disabilities rights advocate. Her supportive data has been used by governments, corporations and nonprofits. She has an extensive background in writing and evaluating grant applications. As a lecturer at Howard University, she has worked with political science students to create research designs.