By Kathleen McCarthy
Keeping up in today's outcomes-based world
In the field of philanthropy, as in any industry, buzzwords come and go. One year a needle is moved and the next, an impact is leveraged.
Most recently the buzz is loudest around the word "outcomes" and, based upon a reading of Leap of Reason by Mario Marino, the buzz is here to stay... and for good reason.
I will admit that I approached the book with an arched brow and a pit in my stomach, as I was imagining a treatise on expensive IT systems and the need to collect granular levels of quantitative data. By the end of this collection of essays, however, I was reassured by Marino and the other authors' honesty and willingness to clearly convey why this work is so important to the communities we seek to serve. Without the hard work of managing to outcomes, how can we say if our work is smart work -- work that is truly impacting our missions?
The book emphasizes that this work does not demand expensive data collection systems and complicated logarithms to be meaningful; in fact, small may not only be beautiful, but if carefully designed and clearly articulated, it can be impactful as well. An organization's ability to manage to outcomes largely rests on its willingness to do the hard work required, ask the tough questions, and commit to understanding just why we are doing what we are doing.