Excellent article on Grants and Measurable Outcomes for Non-Profits by Steve Jennings

“Measurable Outcomes” has become a buzzword in the world of grant writing and securing support from major donors and corporations.  They rightly want to know that their donations and grants are making a difference.  So if you can say that your shelter was able to provide beds for 30 more homeless people, you would have a measurable outcome to report back to the donor.

But there is another side to outcomes that can’t be quantified so easily.  How do you measure the hope you have given homeless people by helping them begin to believe that they don’t have to spend the rest of their lives on the street?  How do you quantify the change in perceptions about poverty and homelessness that you plant in a volunteer?  How can you place a concrete value on a new sense of justice and compassion aroused in a teenager?

In over 20 years of working with poor people and volunteers of all ages, these “immeasurable outcomes” are the ones that most clearly define Teens Opposing Poverty.  They can’t be placed in charts or graphs, yet they bear witness to a very real impact on the hearts and minds of scores of people.

When teens decided to use money they had set aside for a fun outing to pay the security deposit so William Daniels could get into his first apartment, he returned their kindness by volunteering with the Washington, DC ministry.  Now he is on staff and directs that ministry.

Reggie had given up trying to get off the street after suffering a seemingly unending series of setbacks.  After two months of encouragement by young volunteers, he tried again and was finally able to “beat the street.”

Marcel was bitter after losing his job and home and not being able to find work for over a year and a half. A smiling, fifth-grade girl interrupted his epithet-laden rant about his situation.  As she looked him in the eye, she handed him a simple hand-drawn picture.  He looked down at it, returned her smile and said, “If I had a refrigerator, I’d put this on it.”  As she walked away, Marcel turned from us to wipe away his tears.  When he turned around, he was a different man.  Gratitude and hope had found their way into his heart.  In that one precious moment an 11-year-old girl changed his whole outlook on life.

I’ll admit that it’s more difficult for us to secure some financial support because we don’t have enough “measurable outcomes.”  That’s OK.  In my book, a few changed lives are worth the sacrifice.

God’s grace to you,

Steve Jennings – TOPS – Teens Opposing Poverty