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Capturing Data and Measuring Progress

Tips on how to start collecting data and report on metrics to determine how well your team is doing


Being on the ground everyday, you and your team can easily see the good work you are doing and the impact/difference you make. But eventually others will want to know more about it too. Donors, potential volunteers, other organizations, or even the will be curious. Since they don’t have a perspective from the ground like you do, the most effective way to communicate progress and results is with metrics. But starting the process to define metrics, collect data, and report on your progress can be daunting. Follow the detailed steps below to set yourself up with a metrics system.


These 2 rules will help you turn a daunting task of reporting on progress into an achievable one.

Part I


QUICK! Say your team’s mission out loud without looking at your mission statement or website

  • Before measuring any data or talking about metrics, you need a clear and tangible mission, and if you can’t easily recall your mission then you may need to rethink it, read through these tips…

    • Does your mission reflect you, your team and your goals?

      • The mission statement should be written in a tone that represents your team

      • For example, don’t make it sound “professional” if being “professional” isn’t what you and your team are about

      • Keep your target audience in mind when writing it. Is it for the world in general or do you want it geared to peak donors’ interests or to get volunteers’ attention?

    • Most importantly, make sure it is concise and measurable. Avoid fluffy words. Make it concrete because you’re going to need to start collecting and measuring data that determines if your progressing towards your mission

  • Checkout this Guide to Creating a Mission Statement to help you re-evaluate or start a new mission statement

  • Stanford University wrote an article about common pitfalls that NGOs and nonprofits face when developing their mission statement

Part II


Now that you have a concrete mission, you need to determine which metrics to start collecting and measuring

  • First, read the article “Measuring What Matters” by McKinsey. It does a great job breaking down metrics and grouping them into 3 categories: Mobilizing Resources, Effectiveness of the Team, and Progress Towards Mission

  • Now get the team together and start brainstorming a list of metrics

    • Remember a metric is a measurement. So a metric is not “Number of Volunteers”. You need to be more specific such as “Average Number of Volunteers per Month”

  • Once you have a list of metrics, you should map them into 3 groups:

Mobilizing Resources

Effectiveness of the TeamProgress Towards Mission
Resources are what your team needs to operate…this could be funds, materials, or people. This is about measuring your resources and how well you do at acquiring them.This category is all about how well your team operates. How much does it cost to run your team? How many people do you need to run a certain part of the organization?Arguably the most important group, this is all about how well you and your team are doing at achieving your mission! This is most likely what donors will want to know.
1. Average # of volunteers per period
2. Average volunteers hours per period
3. Average Volunteer Length of Stay
4. Basic stats on Revenue/Funds
5. Total # of Individual Donors
6. Mode # of Donor Channels
7. Average Donation Size
8. # of Donations per Period
9. Fundraising ROI
10. Cost per Dollar Raised
11. Donor Retention Rate
12. Donor Growth
13. Recurring Donor Percentage
14. Conversion Rate
1. Operating Cost metrics
2. Overhead Cost metrics
3. Fixed vs. Variable Cost
4. Cost per beneficiary
5. Volunteers per beneficiary
6. Average hours of operating
7. Average Activity Hours
8. Demographic information
9. Facebook Likes/Shares*
10. Unique Website Visits*
These will vary based on the mission so there are no standard examples. If you operate a school maybe you want to know how many students are attending your school compared to the potential students in your area? Or if you operate a kitchen maybe you want to know how satisfied the people are with your meals or total number of meals served? In general you need to measure how many people you serve and how you are helping them. *NOTE: It’s possible that metrics from the other categories can be classified as “Progress towards Mission”, it just depends what the mission is.

If you’ve done this exercise on a whiteboard or paper, get it onto a computer! You will come back to this list in the future and you’re going to want an easy way to update it. This Metric Mapping example provides a good format for the list and mapping the metrics

Part III


So many metrics, so little time!

  • Now before you do anything else, remember you don’t have to collect and measure everything immediately. Start simple!

  • Review your list of metrics and prioritize which ones you want to start collecting and measuring now

    • Consider your team’s current set of skills and the daily workload

    • Are there metrics you are always being asked about?

  • As a general rule, pick 3-5 metrics to start collecting and measuring

    • It’s always better to start simple and do that well. If things are going great after about a month, add some more metrics

Part IV

Design how to collect data

Next step is to work with your team to design a process to easily collect the data.

  • Whatever you come up with is going to be a change for you and your team. So check out our other RefCamp “How to make a change stick”

  • Start with one metric at a time and write down what information you need to measure it

    • If your metric is about attendance (ex: average attendance) then come up with a way to collect number of students attending each class each day, who will capture that info and where will the write it down?

    • If your metric is about donor channels, determine how you can monitor your donations and where they come from

  • As you design your process, keep in mind the skills of your team

    • Are they more comfortable with a computer or paper/pencil?

    • Do they have time to collect this information hourly, daily, weekly?

  • It’s often better for 1 person to be responsible for capturing all the data, this helps keep the numbers consistent

  • No matter what process you end up with, make sure the data gets into a computer as soon as possible. The longer it stays on a piece of paper the more chance you have of the data not being accurate or even worse losing it all together!

Part V

Now that you’re collecting data, you need to report on it

  • Since each organization’s metrics are different there is not one tool we can recommend or build. The best advice is to use Google Sheets and create the a simple reporting tool that works best for you.

    • Make sure your tool is easy to use, difficult to mess up, and is clean so that you can easily find the metrics you need

    • If you need help with this step, reach out to someone at CAMPFIRE Innovation

    • Below are some examples from other organizations, these include simple reports that can be built in Google Sh eets and more complicated dashboards that usually require custom development

Standard reporting tools using google sheets or Microsoft Excel

Standard reporting tools using google sheets or Microsoft Excel

Custom Reporting Tools, usually with paid licenses from Salesforce or Tableau

Custom Reporting Tools, usually with paid licenses from Salesforce or Tableau