Measuring nonprofit success requires analyzing many metrics

February 5, 2014

Measuring nonprofit success requires analyzing many metrics

While all companies measure success in multiple ways, profits tend to be the determining factor. Most of the actions of a for-profit company are carried out to make more money. Improving customer satisfaction and creating innovative new products lead to greater profits – they are tools for success. The nice thing about measuring success with dollars and cents is it provides a set of numbers that can be used as metrics.

For nonprofit organizations, success or failure is far more subjective. While profits are obviously not the measure of success, the need to keep the organization viable is still a determining factor. Serving the designated community or industry cannot be done without successful funding. For this reason, it is very important that nonprofits set clear goals when determining what constitutes acceptable service in their area.

How to measure success when profit isn't applicable
Success and failure should be measured by looking at the organization as a whole. When analyzing metrics, look to see how they compliment one another:

  • Fundraising goals: A viable nonprofit sets very specific fundraising goals at the beginning of the year. The goals are based on realistic estimates of what the organizations can bring in and how much money is needed to function and grow. Even if fundraising came up a little short, consider it a success if you were still able to meet demand for service.
  • Charity provided: For nonprofits that provide services to the less fortunate, it can be difficult to determine if the job is getting done. Should a food shelter wipe out world hunger, or merely provide a low-cost option for families that are experiencing a rough time financially? Like fundraising goals, service goals should be realistic.
  • Growth: An increase in size is not always a measure of success for a nonprofit. If current levels of service are adequate, nonprofits shouldn't feel compelled to spend money. Shore up reserves for when times are lean or begin saving for needed costs down the road, such as a new building or equipment.

Each year, how a nonprofit measures success will depend on the goals of board members and employees. The balance sheet alone cannot determine if an organization was an asset to the community that it serves. Success can be measured in many ways, only individuals within the organization can determine if their nonprofit is operating to the best of its ability.


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We first started using First Nonprofit’s Unemployment Savings Program when we were a small startup nonprofit.  We didn’t have an HR department and needed expertise in the event that an unemployment claim was made.  We knew we were eligible to be a reimbursing employer, but weren’t sure how to navigate that process.  They made it easy to set things up, plan for, and then manage claims when they came at a very reasonable cost. The amount of time and stress they’ve saved us dealing with all this has been worth way more than the cost.  We’ve now grown to a large nonprofit and do have an HR department but have no plans to stop using their services.  I highly recommend them to every nonprofit I come into contact with!


Throughout our membership in the Unemployment Savings Program, First Nonprofit understood our demands, community dynamics, and the importance of seamless services; that allowed us to serve our constituents better.

Prevent Blindness America, Chicago, IL

Because INCS advocates for the operating conditions that allow charter public schools to provide high quality public education, partnering with First Nonprofit was an easy decision. First Nonprofit’s unemployment programs provide our member schools two operating elements crucial to their ability to provide high quality public education: savings and budget certainty. Capable, committed teachers are the key to student success. By participating in the unemployment insurance savings plan, charter public schools gain peace of mind and are able to invest more money in their teachers.

Illinois Network of Charter Schools, Chicago, IL

It has been our sincere pleasure to maintain a strong, vibrant business partnership with First Nonprofit. We greatly admire their strong industry knowledge, technical expertise, constant professionalism, knowledgeable and dedicated staff. They are always extremely responsive, personable and provide us with the necessary guidance and recommendations on a numerous variety of employment scenarios.

Thresholds, Chicago, IL

NYCON members who use First Nonprofit’s programs enjoy enduring savings and improved efficiency. Our association knows that success, because from the beginning, we achieved the same great benefits. Great savings, seamless technology, and responsive service. NYCON highly recommends First Nonprofit’s remarkable unemployment solutions.

New York Council of Nonprofits, Albany, NY

Visually Impaired Preschool Services has been a client of First Non-Profit since it was first offered as a benefit of VisionServe Alliance. We completed a thorough evaluation of cash savings to our agency before taking advantage of this wonderful benefit and it has been a very wise decision. Our experience with the processes from accounting to claims have been professional, expeditious and easy.

Visually Impaired Preschool Services, Louisville, KY

Luckily for us, our interactions regarding any issues with staffing has been very minimal! I can say that all other interactions with regards to billing, 941 reporting, etc. have been extremely pleasant, accommodating and easy to work with. Kim Ghanayem is always prompt, professional and friendly. Thank you so much!

Neurologic Music Therapy Services of Arizona, Phoenix, AZ

First Nonprofit has been easy to work with and makes the administrative process easier and smoother. We enjoy working with you.

Visually Impaired Preschool Services, Louisville, KY