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Measuring Program Effectiveness

"Getting More Bang for Your Buck"
By Timothy Bower, Director of New Business Development

Monitoring Return on Investment (ROI) for existing and new programs is not only preferred, but essential in today's market place. Not-for-profit organizations are faced with the same issues that impact the for-profit world. They need to do more with less - less funding, less staff time, and less volunteer time. This competitive environment makes a ROI analysis of significant association programs even more critical than ever before. This thorough evaluation will provide volunteer leaders with the essential data to determine if a program should be implemented, continued, or improved, as well as if investing further resources can be justified.

To properly track ROI simply take revenue earned versus total expenses. While the financial ROI is very important, remember to factor in the value of a particular program to the existing membership, and how a program can be used to recruit prospective new members. Another noteworthy factor to consider is how much a program enhances the organization's position within the industry or field, and how well a program meets the goals and initiatives identified in the organization's Strategic Plan.

In addition to tracking fixed expenses in support of a program such as marketing, printing, travel, etc., it is equally important to include the amount of staff and volunteer time committed. In order to produce accurate and meaningful results it is imperative to invest sufficient time on the front-end to set-up tracking systems that will produce the desired level of detail. First, develop a comprehensive chart of accounts to record all substantial financial expenses tied to a program. Be equally committed to accurately recording staff and volunteer time. A uniform method of time tracking, by specific category, should be utilized. This can be accomplished with a store bought software program or by using a simple spreadsheet. Don't forget to assign a dollar amount to the cost of staff time, as well as volunteer time. Remember, in some cases the success of a program is contingent on the dedication of volunteers, without them a large majority of not-for-profit organizations would fail.

Upon completion of the program, after all income and expenses have been recorded, including the total value of time invested, a detailed analysis can be conducted. Remember that a program's value should be based on tangible and intangible benefits to the association, its members, and the community it serves.