Define What to Measure

Once you understand your guiding questions and the purpose for collecting data, the next step is to define what you need to measure in order to answer your guiding questions. If the information is available, it can be helpful to explore what metrics other organizations are using to assess similar programs. If there are no programs to compare and contrast, you can develop your own measures. Regardless, if you have your logic model in hand, look at your output, outcome and impact columns to help you get started.

Use or Modify Existing Measures

At a high level, many programs work to achieve the same goals—for instance, increasing knowledge, changing attitudes or changing behaviors. Using or modifying existing measures can save you the time of developing your own measures and may give you access to benchmark, baseline or comparative data.

There are many resources for finding existing measures. The easiest way to find what is publicly available is to search online using keywords like “standard,” “metrics,” “measures” and “outcomes” with your specific programmatic theme (e.g., volunteer, health, education, advocacy or policy).

In 2016, Guidestar developed the Common Results Catalog, a comprehensive list of all measures in the Guidestar database. If you are struggling with what measures to track, take a look at what similar organizations are using to track progress and results.

Logic Model Example
Inputs Activities Outputs Outcomes Impact

1 staff person

Recruit program participants

Register participants

Place participants in summer volunteer programs

150 local teens volunteer for a 2-week period

150 local teens volunteer for a 4-week period

Teens have more exposure to the positive effects of service and volunteerism

Young adults feel there is value in engaging in service and volunteerism

Young people are more likely to make a commitment to service and volunteerism

Increase the number of individuals who make a commitment to service by taking a gap year between high school and college

Using our logic model, some Common Results Catalog measures that could be useful include:

  • Number of young adults who volunteer/participate in community service
  • Number of young adults who demonstrate that they have developed positive attitudes toward service

Other helpful sources for metrics include:

Develop New Measures

In some cases, it may not be useful or possible to use or modify existing measures and you will need to develop your own. As with existing measures, the best place to start developing your own measures is with your logic model.

Review the outputs, outcomes and impact columns:

  • Outputs: What tangible numbers can I count?
  • Outcomes and Impact: What exactly is the change I am seeking? How can I measure it?

Pay attention to the language that you use:

  • Are you interested in an increase, decrease or simply a change?
  • Do you need to measure one indicator or multiple indicators to know if you are achieving your goals?
  • Do your measurements reflect those implied by your guiding questions?
  • What other external factors that may not be mentioned in your logic model do you need to consider in order to correctly interpret your measures?
Logic Model Example
Inputs Activities Outputs Outcomes Impact

1 staff person

Recruit program participants

Register participants

Place participants in summer volunteer programs

150 local teens volunteer for a 2-week period

150 local teens volunteer for a 4-week period

Teens have more exposure to the positive effects of service and volunteerism

Young adults feel there is value in engaging in service and volunteerism

Young people are more likely to make a commitment to service and volunteerism

Increase the number of individuals who make a commitment to service by taking a gap year between high school and college

In the case of our example, to determine the success of the program based on the outputs and outcomes defined, you would need to collect data like:

  • Number of individuals who register for a 2-week summer program
  • Number of individuals who participate in a 4-week summer program
  • Attitudes about service before the program
  • Attitudes about service after the program
  • How likely students are to choose to take a gap year

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

KPIs are critical measures that help you understand your current level of performance relative to your goal. They are mile markers you can use on your journey to achieving your goals. By defining and consistently employing KPIs, you can make any necessary course corrections if you underperform, rather than waiting until the end of the program to judge your success.

Sometimes KPIs are simply your goals examined in smaller increments. For example, if your goal is to raise the average final grade of a class of students at the end of the school year, you may want to look at grade averages each quarter to see if any progress is being made.

If your goals are not immediately measurable, KPIs can help you track your progress until higher-level measurements become more clear. For example, if you want high school students to be excited about taking a gap year between high school and college to volunteer, you may want to periodically check in with the students to get a thumbs up/thumbs down on how they are feeling about volunteering in general. If mid-way through the summer, no student feels strongly about taking a gap year, you may need to think about a course correction.

You can develop your own KPIs, or there are several repositories of standard KPIs for different industries to guide your decision-making: