April 2013 Newsletter

In This Issue:

Welcome to the PerformWell Newsletter

Outcomes Invite Collaboration
By Fawn Davies, Program Manager, Family Design Resources, Inc.


The Measuring Success Consortium (MSC), operating in South Central Pennsylvania, draws on the wisdom of commedienne Amy Poehler: “Other people and other people's ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” Swap out life and insert program, and that captures the essence of this progressive, evolving, grassroots body whose greatest strength is convening volunteers with diverse skills and perspectives to address the challenges and opportunities of program measurement.


The idea for the MSC hatched when a few outcomes-minded folks recognized that they could overcome capacity issues and strengthen program measurement efforts through collaboration. Their vision and commitment was instrumental as the consortium formed, found a fiduciary home at Millersville University’s Nonprofit Resource Network, and garnered support from partners, including the Lancaster County Community Foundation and The Foundation for Enhancing Communities. Today the MSC, whose mission is to provide a collaborative community resource for measuring program impact, has a core group of participants actively consulting on various community projects primarily focused on youth engagement and empowerment.


One tenet of the MSC is that organizations should have some intrinsic motivation to evaluate or measure. They should seek to enhance their program’s potential rather than simply satisfy funders’ requirements. To promote the idea that collaboration around measurement makes sense, and to expose organizations to resources to aid in measurement, the MSC hosted a March 19th event in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania with keynote speaker Mary Winkler from the Urban Institute. The event attracted 75 participants from 50 different organizations. Consortium members spoke about the philosophy and benefits of the consortium, and Mary Winkler highlighted the tools within the PerformWell Web site.


The most valuable session takeaways, as indicated by attendees on the program evaluation, were the resources shared by both organizations. This included the MSC’s Measurement 101 tool, which gets to the core of why, what and how to measure and integrates examples to enhance understanding. In turn, the MSC gained a better sense of what is needed to successfully connect with non-profits and what topics most interest them.


The MSC is modeling the practices it promotes. Consortium members have taken feedback from the event and are using it to understand how they can bring clarity to MSC’s purpose and scope. Their hope is that a year from now the MSC is more equipped to tackle the complexity of requests and needs of participating organizations. For more information about the MSC, visit the website at www.measuring-success.net.


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New & Noteworthy


Parenting: New Content and Webinar
We are happy to announce that a new content area will be coming to PerformWell in late June – Parenting Programs! A webinar on June 25 will mark the launch of these new outcomes, indicators, improving service delivery content, and tools. Don’t miss the opportunity to hear directly from the Urban Institute’s Saunji Fyffe, who led the development of the parenting content. Register here.


Performance Management Conference: Save the Date!
Join us in Washington, D.C. on December 3 & 4 for After the Leap: Building a Performance Management Culture, a PerformWell/Leap of Reason sponsored conference. Download your Outlook Reminder here.


Leap of Reason: Managing to Outcomes was called “a must-read for all nonprofit leaders” and PerformWell was lauded as “the most exciting new entrant to the measurement field in years.” Now, the people behind both have come together to host a conference highlighting the need for performance management, the funding required to build high-performing organizations and the courage it takes from non-profit and public sector leaders to transform their organizations. After the leap, let’s hit the ground running.



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Join us on June 25 for Improving Parenting Skills: New Tools in PerformWell, with the Urban Institute's Saunji Fyffe, who led the content development.


Since you last heard from us, we’ve had three great webinars to continue our performance management series:



Missed these or any of our other webinars, but still want to see them? You can always watch the archived events, free on the PerformWell site!


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The Toolbox


Spotlight: The Self-Sufficiency Matrix

The Self-Sufficiency Matrix is one of PerformWell’s most popular tools, having been downloaded through the PerformWell site nearly 1,250 times as of April 7.


In the 1980s, “self-sufficiency” was increasingly used as the goal of many programs and funding sources, but it was applied inconsistently for practical purposes. Recognizing the need for a common measure that improves upon the standard definition of poverty, Dr. Diana Pearce of the University of Washington developed a Self-Sufficiency Standard. This measure is based on the basic expenses a working family must have in order to meet their basic needs without public assistance, taking geographic location and household composition into account.


The tool that appears on the PerformWell website was developed by the Snohomish County Self-Sufficiency Taskforce. Just north of Seattle, Snohomish County is mostly known as a manufacturing hub – the Boeing factory in Everett is the world’s largest building by volume. Recognizing the potential of Dr. Pearce’s measure as a way to provide a common local understanding of individual self-sufficiency for needs assessment purposes, the Snohomish County Community Action Division of the Human Services Department, United Way of Snohomish County, and other community partners convened a task force to further explore the issue as it pertains to the provision of services in the local community. The Self-Sufficiency Matrix was one of the key products of that task force.


The tool features 25 questions, each covering a particular domain such as housing, mental health, employment, and access to services. It can be used for a number of applications in addition to case management: self-assessment for individuals, program management, as a measure for use by both funders and grantees in order to articulate funding priorities, and as a communication tool to demonstrate program effectiveness.


The State of Minnesota, Boulder County in Colorado, and a number of other state and local agencies use similar but not identical tools in case management programs.


Click here for the Self-Sufficiency Matrix tool, instructions and more background information.

Have you used the Self-Sufficiency Matrix or any other tool?
Be sure to leave your review for others to see what you think. It's easy. When you are on the download page of any tool, scroll to the bottom, rate it from 1-5 stars, submit a review, or share it with a friend. .

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What People Are Saying

In The Right Tools Can Make Evaluation Less Painful, More Productive, Nonprofit Quarterly contributor Steve Boland summarized our mission and value:

"PerformWell is a series of measurements and tools designed to help professionals in the human services sector – you guessed it – perform well. The site provides access to a range of tools that aim to help users understand existing data collection in the field and to help human services advocates consider how they might be able to measure some things that may seem immeasurable, like quality of life outcomes over time. In addition, PerformWell offers ideas on performance improvements."

In A Researcher’s View on Social Sector Data, Elizabeth Boris of the Urban Institute discussed the need for a new paradigm for data sharing, holding up PerformWell as one among several models.


Thanks to Mario Morino for his introductory remarks during our March webinar. As he shared with the Leap of Reason community, the webinar was the highest attended event in PerformWell’s history, with 1,053 attendees.


Finally, the Severson Center at the Alliance for Children and Families plugged PerformWell.



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What We're Reading


Fay Twersky, Phil Buchanan and Valerie Threlfall wrote an article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review on Listening to Those Who Matter Most, the Beneficiaries.


"Congratulations to Fay Twersky on her new position as the Director of the Hewlett Foundation’s Effective Philanthropy Group! The working paper she co-wrote with Karen Lindblom laying out Hewlett’s Seven Principles of Evaluation Practice is well worth a read."


Working Hard—and Working Well, by David E.K. Hunter, is a hands-on guide to developing the discipline of performance management in direct-service organizations. The book is available for free download in multiple electronic formats, including Kindle, iBook and PDF. Even as performance management has gained prominence in conferences and publications, it is still widely underappreciated and misunderstood. David decodes and defangs performance management, providing history, context, guidance, exercises, and tools, for those who want to do more to improve the lives of those they serve. David Hunter also wrote two articles in the Stanford Social Innovation Review on the steps to successful performance management, Part I and Part II.


Performance management practitioner Lisa Hunter of Juma Ventures on how her organization is putting Hunter’s strategies to good use.


Darin McKeever of the Gates Foundation on moving past raw data: Moving from Big Data to Big Wisdom.


Charity Navigator CEO Ken Berger on the merits of rating charity performance.


We welcome your feedback and input as a part of the PerformWell community! Contact us at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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Advisory Board


Diana Aviv, Independent Sector | Viki Betancourt, World Bank

James Firman, National Council of Aging | David Hunter, Hunter Consulting

Irv Katz, National Human Service Assembly | Mike Lawson, Performance Management Consultant

Jeff Mason, Alliance for Effective Social Investing | Jon Pratt, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits

Cynthia Strauss, Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund | Nick Torres, Fels Institute of Government, University of Pennsylvania

Fay Twersky, Hewlett Foundation | Jane Wales, Global Philanthropy Forum


Executive Committee Contacts


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