Outcomes Measurement in the Nonprofit Arena.

Outcomes Measurement in the Nonprofit Arena.

Schools and other public orga- nizations have not been the only ones to move to an outcomes orientation in recent years. Nonprofit organizations, as well, now focus their evaluation activities on assessing and reporting outcomes. As mentioned earlier, United Way influences much of the evaluation in the nonprofit sector. Foundations and other philan- thropic organizations that fund nonprofits also influence evaluations in this arena through their grant requirements. These funding agencies have encouraged non- profit organizations to measure their outcomes. United Way’s evaluation system is called the Outcomes Measurement System and, as the name suggests, the focus is on outcomes. Other elements of the system include developing logic models to link inputs, activities, outputs, and outcomes; encouraging quantitative and repeated measures of outcomes; and emphasizing use of results for program improvement. The activities are not labeled as “evaluation” by United Way but, instead, are con- sidered “a modest effort simply to track outcomes” (Hendricks et al., 2008, p. 16). However, the activities generally take the place of traditional evaluation efforts. The United Way model has influenced the nonprofit field broadly. There are, however, a couple of noteworthy differences between the United Way model and the out- comes focus in education and other public agencies: (a) in the United Way model accountability is considered secondary to the purpose of program improvement; (b) expectations for measuring outcomes are generally more realistic than require- ments for public-sector agencies. For example, the Office of Management and Budget, in discussing evidence for outcomes, strongly encourages use of Randomized Control Trials, or RCTs (OMB, 2004).9 United Way, recognizing that many nonprofit


Chapter 2 • Origins and Current Trends in Modern Program Evaluation 59

human service organizations lack resources to conduct sophisticated evaluations of all outcomes, prefers to view the process as performance monitoring of outcomes without attempts to clearly establish causality. Nonprofit organizations, like many public sector organizations, had typically reported inputs and activities to funders. The move to assess and monitor program outcomes can be a step in the right direction in providing a more comprehensive assessment of a program.

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