A successful organisation will meets its objectives, but an excellent organisation demonstrates impressive achievement and inspires a loyal following. When you only measure progress toward objectives, you are missing the most important driver of excellence, evaluating and communicating. If you say “this year, we’ll deliver 100,000 more free emergency meals than last year,” you need to quantitatively measure actual donations, without a doubt. But don’t forget to qualitatively evaluate the impact and communicate compelling stories surrounding this achievement that will impress and motivate your stakeholders. When you are an NGO saving lives, this seems obvious. When you are a trade association that represents makers of widgets, it is less so, but just as important.
Let’s get straight to the point: Evaluation is a strategic tool, not just a measurement method. Use it to demonstrate progress and survive until the next annual meeting, sure, but to genuinely excel, you must plan strategically to impress members and stakeholders.Philip Springuel, ESAE President
Baselines, metrics, benchmarks, SWOT analyses, ROIs – and so many other assorted approaches from the alphabet soup of evaluation acronyms, will surely help with measurement, and there are many experts that you can turn to for advice. But have these metrics done enough to inspire staff, association members and external stakeholders to follow you further into the future of your organisation? When you underline the number of followers and likes in social media channels, but do not evaluate and communicate the emotion your messages and mission impress upon your audience, you will not inspire continuous excellence or survive to your next AGM.
As an association executive, let’s assume you have 3 key priorities:
- Demonstrate relevance,
- Attract members and funds,
- Satisfy core constituents (members and stakeholders).
So, when your Board of Directors expects you to justify continued ‘wasteful’ or ‘unnecessary’ communications expenses (how many of us have heard this!?), don’t waste any time evaluating the past: make plans to exceed measurable expectations today, but much more importantly, think ahead very strategically about how you will draw a picture of your achievements that can inspire a visionary future.
Keep in mind that ‘value’ is a perception that can be shaped by one part measurement, one part evaluation and one part inspiration: do quantitative measurements, communicate qualitative evaluation, then tell the inspirational story that wraps this all together. Did you “save lives” (or just as importantly for some association boards, did you “save money”), or did you just “meet donations targets” or “increase followers on social media”? In assessing ‘reach’ (which is quantitative), also offer ‘tone’ (which is qualitative) with impressive storytelling to add to your quantitative reporting.
Impressing your core constituency therefore takes inspired leadership infused with crafty strategic planning, and it can be risky. But if you set the stage for success rather than just measuring it, you can inspire continuous organisational excellence.