Situation: How can I measure the impact of my gifts?
“How do you measure what you do with your granting? Do you have a good process for that? We haven’t learned how to measure the impact of our gifts.” – Samuel, Kenya
To respond to this question, we turned to an expert. Lee Behar, who is a key part of our Generosity Path team also oversees grantmaking in Europe for the US-based Maclellan Foundation. His peers at other foundations see Lee as exemplary in his approach to granting and evaluation.
Here is the wisdom that Lee shared with us:
Scripture: The Parable of the Talents
Let’s be clear: measurement and numbers are important. Numbers help givers get a sense of the scale of a project. And numbers are important to God. There’s an entire book of the Bible called… Numbers! But instead of listing all of the places in the Old and New Testament where we see measurement, let’s focus on what’s known (at least in English) as the Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30.
In this passage, “the Master” (presumably a metaphor for Jesus) goes away on a long journey. He entrusts his servants (presumably we givers) with money—not abilities, as we sometimes think of ‘talents’—to manage for him. Upon his return from the journey, he settles accounts with these servants and holds them accountable for the financial return on his money. Two faithful servants are rewarded with more responsibility and ‘happiness’ and the one unfaithful servant is condemned and everything he has is taken away from him.
The conclusion of the story suggests that we as givers should be very interested in the fruitfulness of our giving. Not only is measurement of return important, it is expected by the Master.
Step 1: Ask What Grantees Measure
Begin by asking what do the grantees measure? If you’re having trouble measuring the impact of your gifts, it likely begins because the grantees have inadequate or non-existent measurements.
This may seem like an overly-simplistic solution, but it’s actually the critical piece of puzzle. Why? Because measuring the impact of the ministries to which you give is the responsibility (before the Lord) of those ministries.
We’ve struggled with this question at Maclellan and concluded that it is our role to examine and evaluate how ministries measure their effectiveness. Then we have the opportunity of as stewards of God’s resources of deciding whether those measurements and results (or potential for results) are in keeping with the purpose and calling of our Foundation.
Step 2: What Are the Activities, Outputs, and Outcomes?
For what should you be looking…? Good giving measurement requires understanding the differences among activities, outputs and outcomes. In the parable, the Master is looking for outcomes. These are the result of ministry activities and outputs. For example, If your gift is provided to a ministry which trains missionaries or church planters, the outcome of such a project should be new churches, not just church planter trainings or numbers of people trained.
Step 3: Help Develop Good Measurements
Help your ministries develop good measurements. Measuring outcomes is difficult work. In your role as a giver, especially if you have been effective in business, you have the ability to help ministries craft and measure outcomes. This will mean thinking with them about what the outcomes are or should be and then helping them craft surveys or other measurement tools to evaluate those outcomes.
Step 4: Realize to Whom YOU Are Accountable
Reject criticism from potential grantees or anyone else that tells you that you should not try to measure effectiveness in giving. You are accountable to the Master, not to others. Healthy and flexible ministry measurements are one sign of growing and accountable ministry with good leadership. Seek those kinds of leaders, and the criticism will fade into the background.
Step 5: Leave Space for the Heart
Finally feel free to give some gifts that speak to your heart, not only a spreadsheet. Some projects will never be easily measured, but prayerfully you believe God is calling you to give. Often these are spontaneous gifts that the Lord prompts you to give. Do so with joy!
Lee Behar is the Team Leader for Generosity Path and also helps find great projects for the givers at the Maclellan Foundation. He loves his wife Brooke and three kids who live together in Tennessee, USA. You can possibly meet Lee in Europe training Journey of Generosity facilitators or facilitating JOGs or Next Steps retreats. He also helps coordinate the European Great Commission Collaboration with several European givers. Lee likes to watch European and American football, but he’s too old to play himself.