urban institute nonprofit social and economic policy research

Developing Community-wide Outcome Indicators for Specific Services

Read complete document: PDF


PrintPrint this page
Share:
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on LinkedIn Share on Digg Share on Reddit
| Email this pageE-mail
Document date: June 01, 2003
Released online: June 01, 2003

The nonpartisan Urban Institute publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders.

Note: This report is available in its entirety in the Portable Document Format (PDF).


Contents

Preface

Acknowledgments

Introduction
   About This Guidebook

Key Steps to Developing Community-wide Indicators
Planning
Meeting
Finalizing the Outcomes and Indicators
Implementing

The Montgomery County Experience

What Leads to Success: Process Factors
What Funders Need to Provide
What Service Organizations Need to Provide
Ensuring Effective Meetings

What Leads to Success: Content Factors

Appendices
A. Outcomes and Core Indicators for Homeless Service Providers
B. Outcomes and Core Indicators for Outpatient Adult Mental Health Service Providers
C. Outcomes and Core Indicators for Outpatient Child and Family Mental Health Service Providers
D. Sample Agendas from the Montgomery County Core Outcomes Workshops

Exhibits
1. Key Steps to Developing Community-wide Indicators
2. Factors Leading to Success in Developing Community-wide Indicators
3. Ensuring Effective Meetings


Preface

A growing concern for nonprofit organizations providing health and human services is balancing the need for accountability to funders and the community with the providers' need for information that can help them continually improve their services. This need for accountability has led to a proliferation of competing outcome-reporting requirements from governments, United Ways, and foundations that provide funding. If service organizations and funders can agree on a common core set of outcome indicators to report on, this problem can be alleviated.

In addition to more focused, efficient outcome reporting, agreement among service organizations and funders on common outcomes has other advantages. Services can be improved if reasonably comparable outcome information is available from nonprofit organizations delivering similar services. Such improvements can occur both by identifying successful practices used by local organizations and then sharing these with other service organizations, and by motivating service organizations with less successful practices to improve.

This guide focuses on how local community funders and service providers can work together to develop a common core set of indicators that each provider would regularly collect data on, for its own use and to provide to funders.

Even if the process does not yield a core set of indicators, getting service providers together, along with funders, to discuss outcome measurement and identify appropriate outcome indicators seems likely to be useful. It will at least encourage some providers to improve their own outcome measurement efforts for internal use.

How funders use the outcome information from the service providers is critical. Funders can cause more harm than good if they use the data primarily to decide who to fund. Instead, the data should be used constructively; for example, to identify best practices that are then disseminated among the providers, or to identify programs that could be improved with better staff training or more technical assistance.

As the guide notes, the suggestions provided should also be useful to service providers in a community who themselves decide, without funders, to cooperate to identify basic outcome indicators. This cooperation is likely to produce a better product for each of them and help them subsequently to identify best practices.

Larry Pignone
Director of Development,
Montgomery County Business Roundtable for Education

Former Executive Director,
Montgomery County Chapter of United Way


Introduction

Most communities have many service organizations providing similar services to residents, and multiple funders for these services. As outcome-reporting requirements from governments, United Ways, foundations, and other funding sources increase in number and complexity, providers may be overburdened collecting the information they need for accountability to funders and the community and what they need to help improve their services. Agreement between funders and service providers on a common core set of outcome indicators for reporting can greatly help balance these needs.

In Maryland, the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the local United Way, and the cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg all fund health and human services in Montgomery County. Because of their ongoing interest in outcome measurement, this group of funders brought together providers of homeless services, adult mental health services, and child and family mental health services to seek agreement on a common core set of outcome indicators. This guide describes what was learned from this experiment to develop community-wide outcome indicators for these specific services and provides suggestions for other interested communities.

This type of effort might be initiated by one or many funders, such as a local government agency, the United Way, or a foundation. It might also be initiated by the nonprofit service providers themselves. If service providers develop a core set of outcome indicators on which they would regularly report, then multiple funders might not each request different outcome information. An important added advantage is that each provider does not have to develop its own outcome measurement process, but instead can receive guidance from other providers and perhaps funders.

A word of caution: Funders that initiate this effort need to use the resulting outcome data carefully. Funders can cause more harm than good if they use the data primarily to decide who to fund. This focus would inevitably lead to game playing with the data, and perhaps destructive competition among the providers. Instead, the data should be used constructively, such as to identify best practices to disseminate among the providers or to identify programs that could be improved with additional staff training or technical assistance.

About This Guidebook

SECTION I: Key Steps to Developing Community-wide Indicators summarizes the key actions needed to undertake such an effort.

SECTION II: The Montgomery County Experience describes how the funders and service providers in one Maryland community worked together to identify outcomes and develop core indicators for each of three services.

SECTION III: What Leads to Success: Process Factors discusses the process elements that contribute to the success of this type of cooperative effort.

SECTION IV: What Leads to Success: Content Factors discusses a number of specific content issues involved in selecting outcomes and core indicators.

Note: This report is available in its entirety in the Portable Document Format (PDF).


Acknowledgments

The authors of this volume are Harry Hatry, Jake Cowan, Ken Weiner, and Linda Lampkin. Ken Weiner is a professor of mathematics at Montgomery College (MD) and was a major participant in the Montgomery County effort described in this guide.

Thanks go to Stacy Haller, Sarah Meehan, and Sandra Sonner of Montgomery College and Arleen Rogan of the Montgomery County (MD) Department of Health and Human Services for their comments and contributions to the development of this material.

This guide is one in a series to help nonprofit organizations that wish to initiate or improve their efforts to measure the outcomes of their programs. Harry Hatry and Linda Lampkin are the series editors. We are grateful to the David and Lucile Packard Foundation for their support of this series.



Topics/Tags: | Governing | Health/Healthcare | Housing | Nonprofits | Performance Measurement / Mgmt


Usage and reprints: Most publications may be downloaded free of charge from the web site and may be used and copies made for research, academic, policy or other non-commercial purposes. Proper attribution is required. Posting UI research papers on other websites is permitted subject to prior approval from the Urban Institute—contact publicaffairs@urban.org.

If you are unable to access or print the PDF document please contact us or call the Publications Office at (202) 261-5687.

Disclaimer: The nonpartisan Urban Institute publishes studies, reports, and books on timely topics worthy of public consideration. The views expressed are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Urban Institute, its trustees, or its funders. Copyright of the written materials contained within the Urban Institute website is owned or controlled by the Urban Institute.

Email this Page