Understanding Impact is Elementary to Successful Organizations

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Really understanding impact can be challenging. Some organizations may have successful programs while others perform poorly. From location and funding to staff and participants, there are many elements that impact your organization’s outcomes.


Steve Zimmerman and Blue Avocado take a look at how to untangle the elements of impact. In order to understand impact, Zimmerman says organizations must first look at two criteria:


  1. Contribution to intended impact

Every nonprofit program will leave an impact, but they may not contribute at the same level. To maximize the desired impact, organizations should focus on internal elements. Consider the intended impact, specific statements that complement the mission, and the overall design of a program.


  1. Excellence in execution

Organizations are better at executing some programs compared to others. For nonprofits that focus on impact, it isn’t enough for a program to be supported; it also has to be doing well. Consider what can be improved within your organization and within the community.


After addressing these, the following considerations can assist in defining the strategic issues an organization faces.


Scale.  An organization’s reach is a critical element of impact. Not every program is designed to reach a large population, but it is important to have strategic questions about the scale of its programs. Your services are needed, but they may be in the wrong location.


Depth.  Depth refers to the participant’s engagements, program’s design and the degree of transformation experienced by clients or participants.


Significant unmet need.   Is your organization meeting its participant’s needs? Some organizations only provide a specific service in the community. Due to limited resources and funding, some organizations may not have the supply of services needed.


Community building.   Along with services, nonprofits advocate, raise awareness, and engage a community on specific issues.  Community engagement and participation are key element to a successful organization. How does your program contribute to its communities needs according to your mission?


Leverage.  Understand the impact of each program in your organization to strengthen partnerships and relationships both internally and externally.


Understanding these elements of impact can help gain better understanding, debunk myths, change perceptions. Measuring and reporting on the impact and outcomes with both staff and board will contribute to your growth and success.


James Zackal

About the Author: James Zackal is a writer, music enthusiast, and Netflix addict. A graduate student at California University or Pennsylvania pursuing a Master of Business Administration, he is a writer at New Place Collaborations, LLC in Pittsburgh and a Marketing Assistant at Web Strategies in Winchester.