Three Gems from Beth Kanter’s new “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit”

Three Gems from Beth Kanter’s new “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit”

(Pictured: Daniel Lee, Executive Director of the Levi Strauss Foundation, lauding Beth Kanter and KD Paine.)

Over the last two weeks, in between watching nerve-wracking Giants baseball games and preparing for my son’s Halloween zombie-fest, I’ve had the chance to read and digest Beth Kanter’s latest book with KD Paine, “Measuring the Networked Nonprofit” - and I have to say I never thought I’d enjoy any discussion of metrics this much.

Don’t get me wrong, the book launch event at our office was lively, and the authors were very engaging, but I didn’t think that could translate to the printed page. Turns out “Measuring” is an accessible, well-organized read with loads of inspiring examples and helpful suggestions for nonprofits and foundations looking to increase their social impact. (Full disclosure: I like the cartoons.)

Many nonprofits are so busy “doing the work” that making time and systems for measurement and reflection often get left out. This book not only helps make it crystal clear why measuring is an efficient use of organizational energy, but also demystifies how to get started.

Beth and KD’s distinction between a “data informed” organization and a “data driven” one is incredibly important:

The term data driven has been used to describe orgs that rely solely on cold hard data to make decisions. Being data driven sounds great – in theory. Data informed is a far more useful label because it describes agile, responsive and intelligent businesses that are better able to succeed in a rapidly changing environment.

My three favorite elements of the book, besides the cartoons, of course, are:

1) The nine themes concerning the value of measurement - five are listed here:

  • “Likes” on Facebook is not a victory – social change is
  • Data without insight is just trivia
  • Measurement makes you plan for success
  • Measuring failure is part of the path to success
  • Incremental success is not failure

2) How to get past the “What’s the ROI?” roadblock (page 66):

Many nonprofit [and foundation] directors and boards use “What’s the ROI?” as an argument to resist new initiatives involving social media or networked approaches … there are many investments for which ROI cannot be easily calculated, but that doesn’t mean they are bad investments … Our advice is to be prepared … by presenting the value of your proposal in terms that are closely aligned with the social change and financial goals of the organization.

3) Using your data to tell stories – examples and suggestions (page 151):

Inspiring examples include: MomsRising, The Smithsonian, Humane Society

Valuable suggestions (excerpts from the full list):

  • Ask “so what?” of every result
  • Use correlations to get from data to insights
  • Tear down those cubicles and share your data
  • Pie charts do not tell stories

By now you’re likely getting the picture that “Measuring” can be a vital resource for strengthening your work. My hunch is that even implementing 10 percent of what’s suggested will be helpful in putting your organization on the path to greater efficiency and impact.

Let us know your thoughts and experiences with measurement by submitting a comment below … and enjoy the read!

“Measuring the Networked Nonprofit” is a hands-on resource for nonprofit professionals looking to accurately measure the results of their social media ventures. All of Beth Kanter’s royalties from sales of the book will support the Sharing Foundation‘s college education program for young people in Cambodia.

Keep up with Beth and all things "Measuring" via the book wiki.

beth kanter, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit