How do we know if we are doing a good job?

by Kimberly Goodrich, CFRE, Senior Director of Development*


As the debate continues around ratings, ratios, and watchdogs, nonprofits around the country are focused on how to accurately communicate their value. If ratings do not suitably portray the efficiency of an organization’s operations – then how do we know our dollars are being well spent? What is our impact?

Impact, in the nonprofit world, refers to the change in behavior that is a result of the activities and resources provided. For example, an organization provides a class and information on the health risks associated with smoking cigarettes, and finds that 42 percent of attendees stop smoking, resulting in higher scores on overall health measures at their next checkup. If their mission was to improve health scores by decreasing the number of smokers, then this organization can clearly state this as their impact.

MSAA’s mission is to be a leading resource for the MS community and improve lives today. But how do we measure improvement? And how much improvement is enough? In the previous example, if the smoking-cessation classes improved health scores by 50 percent, this sounds great, but what if they only improved by 5 percent…is that enough? If 5 percent kept that person from having a heart attack, would it then be enough?

The improvement of a life is not easily shown on a graph or a financial statement. Sometimes we need to hear the stories that accompany the percentages and the ratios, the revenues, and expenses. The stories that remind us why we do what we do.

“From the bottom of my heart, I thank you – all of you, for helping me to live independently [through MSAA’s free equipment distribution program]. I put my shoes on by myself!! It has been years since I have done that! Thank you for the leg lifter. It lifted my spirits too!” -F from South Carolina

This is not to say that numbers do not matter. Last year, 1,040,554 people accessed our website for information – 814,776 of them for the first time. That’s a significant number of people who can have their spirits lifted and their lives improved.

MSAA has been able to improve these lives because of an increase in the number of generous donors who support us in this mission. We are incredibly thankful for this growing number of people who, through their vital contributions, experience the joy of creating an impact – and improving lives today!

*About Kimberly

I am the Senior Director of Development at MSAA and have worked in the nonprofit arena for over 15 years. I love reading, running, theatre and the Green Bay Packers. I volunteer with the Disabled American Veterans teaching outdoor sports like skiing and kayaking to injured veterans and find that I receive much more from them than I am able to give.

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  • Dave Kempker says:

    Focus on educating employers and SSDI on MS. A workshop on how to handle either would be helpful.

  • Devin says:

    I will say this, I have had MS for 14 years and only recently discovered you guys and you have done way more for me then the MS Society has ever done. The MSAA impacts the daily lives of people who suffer with the disease. From the equipment program to having people available with vital info, you guys have made my MS experience better. I wish the walk and bike race proceed went to you guys (or that you had a more approachable event then the swim).

    • MSAA says:

      Hi Devin,
      We’re so glad to hear about the positive impact MSAA has had on your daily life. It’s a great reminder of the importance of our mission to improve lives today. While we’re always looking for ways to help making swimming more accessible to people with MS, we also provide the option of creating your own third-party event of any type for an MSAA fundraiser. You can learn more here: Thanks again for your feedback and please feel free to reach out to us again in the future!

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