The importance of outcome measurement

Outcome measurement is a key component to the success of nonprofit organizations.

As nonprofit youth development organizations face the unending challenge of funding programs, either through donations, grants or governmental funding, being able to tell their story with solid outcomes is crucial to securing funding. Most nonprofit organizations have focused their reports to funders on what their staff does, how many people they serve and how many hours of service they have delivered. Outcome measurements ask and attempt to answer the question, “So what?”

So what is outcome measurement? Outcome measurement is the regular systematic measuring of progress toward intended outcomes. Outcome measurement is language in the nonprofit world. Outcome measurement wants organizations to answer crucial questions, such as has the program made a difference? What changes have occurred in the youths’ lives because of the program? What changes have occurred in the broader community as a result of the program?

Tufts University conducted an eight-year study on positive youth development and the resulting outcomes for youth participating in 4-H Youth Development programs. The research was conducted with over 7,000 young people from different backgrounds in 42 states. In a report called “The Positive Development of Youth: Comprehensive Findings from the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development,” researchers and scholars found that 4-H members are:

  • Four times more likely to make contributions to their communities.
  • Two times more likely to be civically active.
  • Two times more likely to make healthier choices.
  • Two times more likely to participate in science, engineering and computer technology programs during out-of-school time.
  • Two times more likely and nearly three times more likely to take part in science programs compared to girls in other out-of-school time activities.

These types of measures speak to the bigger-picture outcomes that result from the work of 4-H youth development programs across the United States.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.


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