Outcome measurement to programs, funders and 4-H Youth Development is important

Outcome measurement answers crucial questions and keeps programs on task.

As nonprofit youth development organization face the unending challenge of funding programs with 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?”

Outcome measurement asks critical questions such as, “Has the program made a difference?” “What changes have occurred in the youth’s life because of the program?” Outcome measurement digs deeper into the intended results of a program, way beyond the amount of people served and whether they enjoyed the program.

What are the benefits of outcome measurement? The program and the funders and donors have a different focus when looking at outcome measurement. Benefits to a program when engaging in outcome measurement include a stronger story to communicate based on data, helps focus staff by focusing on a specific outcome that relates the program’s mission and goals, improves the service delivery by keeping on tasks, identifies effective practices and enhances record keeping. Benefits to funders for programs include decisions based on outcomes and data, investments aligned with community priorities and cooperative planning in creating a community vision that focuses on what is best for a community.

According to a Tufts University longitudinal study on 4-H Youth Development, compared to their peers, 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 participate in science programs during out-of-school time
  • Two times more likely to make healthier choices

Michigan State University Extension 4-H leadership civic engagement programs have had the following impact on youth participants:

  • Ninety-four percent of participants indicated they learned things that would help them make a difference in their communities; a 38 percent increase from before their 4-H experience.
  • Eighty-eight percent of participants agreed they could work things out when others didn’t agree with them; a 24 percent increase from before their 4-H experience.
  • Eighty-six percent of participants indicated they could run a meeting; a 34 percent increase from before their 4-H experience.
  • Seventy-six percent of participants reported they had communication skills to address conflict effectively; a 29 percent increase from before their 4-H experience.

To learn about the positive impact of MSU Extension 4-H youth leadership, civic engagement, citizenship and global/cultural programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H positively impacted individuals and communities in 2015, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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