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Successful organizations, both for profit and non-profit, use indicators to set accountability goals, consistently and accurately show what’s happening in their priority areas, and communicate these results and achievements to clients, stakeholders, decision-makers, donors.

Indicators are observable and measurable data used to track a program’s or organization’s progress or performance in achieving its goals. The process of choosing these indicators defines the data to be collected to measure progress, and, as a result, communicate how well a project or organization is achieving its objectives.

Indicators provide actionable objectives that identify how much and by when, and should be SMART–an acronym that helps lay out how this is accomplished:
Specific (indicate precisely the result or outcome desired);
Measurable (considering the priorities, are either quantitative – numbers that describe how much things have changed, or qualitative – conversations or stories that describe what the change is like and how it helped the community);
Attainable (realistic and feasible, given the resource constraints and accessible data);
Relevant (pertain to the priorities being managed; are useful for decision-making);
Time-bound (provide deadlines for completion);
– And are consistent with appropriate international standards and other reporting requirements.

Thus, it is important to set up a process to consider what result or outcome is desired, the priority areas to be evaluated, and how people and projects are affecting these chosen priorities.

Indicator template example youth homelessnessTo help you get started in this process, we have put together a downloadable template that you can use to identify what you need in choosing indicators, with an example of how this template would be used.  The table includes three columns:
specific outcomes and effects – list the priority objectives or goals, expected effects, ways you will know what effect your priority is having
specific indicators – for each objective or effect, define a SMART indicator
data sources – for each indicator, identify a data source

These evidence-based procedures generate a foundation of evidence for accurately and effectively evaluating and communicating performance. Evaluation, which planning can ensure is a simple process, has many benefits that are exhibited by sustainable programs and organizations. These evaluation benefits include:
– program improvement, so programs demonstrate progress rather than being eliminated;
– essential ongoing feedback to analyze, understand, and refine the program;
– having an organization that is oriented toward achieving results, producing self understanding and self accountability; and
– positive investment in time and resources, exhibited by: a foundation for strategic planning; program strengths that can be identified and leveraged; documentation for performance and funding reports; demonstrated program outcomes for grant providers and other constituents; substantiated requests for increased funding by providing evidence of effectiveness; and credibility and visibility.

Datassist continues to help organizations establish an ongoing process of monitoring and evaluation, including selecting appropriate indicators, identifying data sources, meeting reporting requirements, and visually communicating those results.

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