Outcomes: A four letter word?
Collecting client outcomes has become more and more critical for nonprofit organizations in recent years, and for good reason. Tracking the right outcomes allows nonprofits to show the impact they’ve had and make a compelling case for support from individual donors and organizational funders.
The downside to collecting good outcomes is that it often requires a great deal of administrative effort. From crafting the perfect metric, to collecting information, and finally doing the analysis, there’s a lot of heavy lifting required by program and administrative staff alike. This has earned outcomes a bad rap.
So, what can we do to lighten the burden and keep our focus on actually serving the client instead of measuring how we’re serving the client. There are a few keys to successful outcome collection that Salesforce can help with: timing, communication, and the actual data collection itself.
Good outcome metrics are designed to measure change over time. The most effective way to do this is to take multiple measurements over a period of time (usually before a client receives a service and again after) However, it is difficult for program staff to keep track of timing for each of their clients. Salesforce can help by automating this timing. Setting reminders for staff and sending automatic communications to clients becomes exponentially easier with Salesforce. Which brings us to the next way Salesforce can help…
Collecting client outcomes requires a longitudinal relationship with clients. As discussed above, at the very least we want to communicate with the client at the beginning of a service and at the end of a service. Salesforce makes it easy to send personalized, professional communications and track those communications right on the client’s record. Integration with any number of email marketing and texting programs ups the communication power and the likelihood of collecting a response.
Perhaps the most important, but most difficult step in collecting outcomes is the actual data collection itself. Salesforce has a number of features that can help here. Salesforce1 makes it easy for program staff to have access to the database while out in the field. Publisher actions can make creating new records and entering key data even easier. Check out this blog by Nate Hembree for more about the power of Publisher Actions (https://www.acutedge.com/publisher-actions).
There are also great ways for clients to provide data directly through a Sites page or an app like Form Assembly. Providing personal links to surveys is great way to collect follow up data and perform pre- and post- testing. The best part is that an integrated form eliminates the need for data entry!
A discussion about outcomes wouldn’t be complete without analytics. After all, we just spent all that time collecting data. Now, what do we do with it?
The good news is the analytic power of Salesforce just keeps growing. This deserves it’s own blog post entirely, so for now let’s just say that Salesforce allows program and administrative staff to create reports and see exactly the information that they need. Custom dashboards are are a perfect fit here!
It’s easy for the average user to update time frames and filters on standard Salesforce reports. For more advanced users, the promise of the Wave Analytics Cloud on the horizon means that analysis of data from multiple sources through Salesforce will keep getting easier.
Outcomes are a good thing. But so often the burden to collect outcomes creates a huge administrative hurdle. Leveraging standard Salesforce functionality of workflows, emails, dashboards, and reports can really reduce the onus on staff and increase the quantity and quality of outcomes collected. Integrating more advanced features like Salesforce1, Sites, and the Wave Analytics Cloud takes things to a whole other level!
Autumn Romanchek is an experienced nonprofit manager, Salesforce consultant, problem-solver, and data fanatic. She holds a Master’s degree in Public Administration from Villanova University and an undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame. When she’s not helping nonprofits better leverage the power of people and technology she can be found spending time with her husband, keeping up with their toddler, and training dogs.