Who can argue with Bill Gates and his call for a more thoughtful and holistic approach to measurement?
It sounds like a simple equation: If you want to achieve progress, you set a clear goal and find a measure, or measures, that will drive progress toward that goal.
Ideally, however, measurement is a way of thinking. It answers the question, “What does success look like?” and should be part of daily practice and a key to any funder/grantee conversation. Many program officers are already conversant in logic modeling, theories of change, and goal setting. In addition, resources are increasingly being devoted to collecting, analyzing, and communicating/visualizing data; reporting the results; and using those results to improve and promote programs.
Implicit in Gates’ essay is the fact that funders and grantees require the capacity and proficiency to set clear goals and design the means to measure progress. This shared responsibility creates an opportunity for meaningful dialogue and collaboration and could deliver the innovations in measurement that Gates suggests. Although measurement can be very complex and difficult, grantmakers have a responsibility to make it one of their core competencies.
With a robust strategic giving plan, the contributions team at Johnson & Johnson is continuing on a journey to improve our ability, and that of our partners, to measure and communicate program results. We are certainly interested in the quantitative (numbers) and the qualitative (stories) results of our partnerships around the world. We have embraced “evaluation thinking” within the context of a global corporate giving program and created a “tiger team,” a cross-discipline sub-team which works to continuously improve our team’s ability to measure outcomes while improving our partners’ evaluation capacity. Embracing evaluation thinking has improved our practice on many levels, especially our relationships with community partners.
Among funders, more dialogue around measurement will surely improve the quality of our work. Program outcomes and results are directly linked to how we, as funders, demonstrate the impact and value of our work to our stakeholders. As Chris Pinney concluded in Increasing Impact, Enhancing Value: A Practitioner’s Guide to Leading Corporate Philanthropy: “In this time of turbulence and change, all organizations are being asked to rethink their purpose and actions to create greater value for society. We believe an enormous opportunity exists today for leaders in corporate philanthropy to step up to this challenge.”
Come join the conversation around value at the Council on Foundations Annual Conference in Chicago.
Michael Bzdak, Ph.D., is a director of corporate contributions for Johnson & Johnson and serves on the Council’s Corporate Committee.