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The Key to Impact Measurement: Keep Moving Forward.

How is your organization incorporating impact measurement into your program design? If you’re wanting to do more, but aren’t quite sure where to get started, read on.

We built HomeKeeper to help make your job easier and your programs better. Over the years we’ve cultivated a data-driven sector and a community of folks committed to telling better impact stories backed by real data.

Central to this learning process for the sector is the need to increase data-driven decision-making at the program level. This chart from Beth Kantor, co-author of Measuring the Networked Nonprofit, presents a useful way of framing the progression of becoming a data-informed nonprofit.

As you can see, it’s an evolving process starting on the left and progressing to right. Organizations in the “crawl” phase have messy or redundant files, no systems and decisions based on gut feelings. As you move towards the right, organizations become more organized. An organization that is flying is a data-informed organization, reporting in real-time and engaged in a formal reflection process. Where is your organization on this spectrum?

Our HomeKeeper program assumes a similar progression:

  1. Gathering inputs systematically (Crawling)
  2. Counting outputs with reports and dashboards (Walking)
  3. Tracking outcomes and using data to tell stories (Running)
  4. Leveraging data and insights to improve program design (Flying)

Take a look at your organization’s annual report. Are you crawling, walking, running or flying? On a recent webinar, half of the HomeKeeper users on the call reported that they were “walking” while a quarter self-reported to “crawling” and the remainder were “running.” To help get you closer to “flying”, we’ve assembled these tips and tools to help you use your data to report on outcomes and measure impact.

Gather inputs systematically

For starters, review our Data Collection Checklist, which is designed to help you align your data points and data collection practices with your peers in the field. This easy-to-use checklist is intended to be used by all homeownership programs, regardless of whether or not you are a HomeKeeper user.

By going through the process of reviewing and updating your forms and procedures, your program will begin to reflect many program design best practices. For example, by retaining appraisals from each new transaction, you’ll be able to track how market values have changed over time, relative to your affordable prices.

With a community of practitioners collecting the same data in the same way, we can more accurately measure the impact of the sector at national level. You can also compare your program metrics to your peers, knowing that you’re making a true apples-to-apples comparison.

Count outputs with reports and dashboards

Now that you have systems in place to systematically collect data and documents, you can start counting outputs to get a better picture of the impact your program is having in your community. Create a simple summary table with your key outputs and track them quarterly, or at regular intervals. If you’re using HomeKeeper, you can review our standard reports and dashboards, or create custom ones to track outputs in real-time.

Here are some examples of data points HomeKeeper users are counting:

  • Total homes in portfolio / Total homes added last year
  • Total number of individuals / children / seniors living in homes
  • Total property taxes dollars paid by homeowners
  • Total construction dollars invested in the community
  • Top 5 occupations of homeowners

Track outcomes and use data to tell stories

Counting outputs is useful, but tracking outcomes can lead to better stories, since they are the observed changes that occur as a result of your program and services. While outputs tally up what happened and for who, outcomes provide more convincing evidence that your work is making a difference.

Our Turning Data into Dashboards worksheet helps you use your data to create customized charts and messages for your different audiences. Use this worksheet to craft a compelling storyline to demonstrate your impact. For example, Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco, one of our HomeKeeper organizations, recently shared the following storyline and chart describing their Habitat owners in relation to city-wide household data.

“Compared to regional demographics, Habitat homes are larger, more likely to have children or be a female headed household.”

 

Here are a few storylines that help illustrate ways you can better make your case to funders, policy makers, supporters and opponents by letting your data do the talking.

  • Show the cost efficiency of your program model over time. “Our program’s initial community investment of $15 million has helped us preserve the affordability of a portfolio with a total market value of $50 million.”
  • Show the demand for your homes your program builds.“We received 76 applications from buyers interested in three 2-bedroom homes in the Laurel District just last month.”
  • Calculate the tax contribution of your homeowners. “Our homeowners have contributed $123,000 in property taxes last year alone. Over the last 12 years, our homeowners have paid a total of $1.4 million in property taxes.”
  • Sum up the total construction dollars you invested in the local economy. “By building and repairing 127 Homes in our community, our program has invested $63 million in development contracts to local design and construction companies.
  • Count the actual number of students added to the local school districts. “Despite fears from some neighbors, our portfolio only added 2 children to the school district last year.”
  • Identify the most common occupations of home buyers and link to the local economy. “15% of our owners work for the the local hospital, and 20% work for the local school district.”
  • Brag about your success. “Over 98% of of our homeowners are still homeowners 5 years later.”

Leverage insights to improve and influence

Your can leverage your data to do more than demonstrate impact and generate awareness. You can also analyze your data to glean insights, influence others, continuously evaluate and adjust program design and impact metrics.

Here at Grounded Solutions Network, we too are building on insights from our data to inspire change at the program and national level. As part of our HomeKeeper program, we’re aggregating a subset of data from our HomeKeeper organizations in our HomeKeeper National Data Hub, so we can provide you with social impact dashboards and pursue other research and policy goals.

The HomeKeeper Social Impact Report makes it easier to answer hard questions like:

  • Are you serving people who couldn’t buy without help?
  • Are you making the most of public investment?
  • Are your owners building wealth?
  • Are you changing their odds of success?
  • Are you serving the right buyers?
  • Are you pricing your homes properly for the buyers you serve?
  • Is your resale formula working?

If you’re not yet a HomeKeeper user, you can still leverage insights from our public dashboard which aggregates data from our HomeKeeper organizations. For example, you can show stakeholders in your community what programs like yours have been able to achieve.

We have seen first hand how your data can influence policy, even at the highest level of government. Recently, your data in the HomeKeeper National Data Hub helped us convince the Federal Housing Finance Agency to incorporate “shared equity homeownership” as a “regulatory activity” for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to have a duty to serve underserved markets. This should increase access to financing for homebuyers in your programs, a huge win for our sector.

Learning to Fly

Are you ready to fly? Hopefully you are now more prepared to do just a little more to turn your data into reports, your reports into stories and your stories into action. Contact HomeKeeper today if you need help or guidance implementing these suggestions. We want to make sure you have what you need to gather good data and tell great impact stories.

If you can’t fly, then run,
if you can’t run, then walk,
If you can’t walk, then crawl,
but whatever you do,
you have to keep moving forward.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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