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Program Metrics That Are Essential for Writing Grants 

Securing grants is critical for the growth and sustainability of nonprofit organizations. In today’s hyper-competitive funding environment, nonprofits must effectively communicate their organization’s impact and value to potential funders using current and accurate data.  

This blog post will explore the essential program metrics and data points you need to craft compelling grant proposals, demonstrating the high performance, scalability, and overall success of your organization. With a strong grasp of these critical metrics, you’ll be well-equipped to show funders the return on investment they can expect when supporting your cause. From demographic data to financial health indicators, we will guide you through the necessary elements to make your grant applications stand out and maximize your chances of success.  

By leveraging data-driven insights and strategic grant writing techniques, your nonprofit can unlock new funding opportunities and thrive in 2023’s ever-evolving philanthropic landscape. 

Why do grants need data-driven information? 

Grants are a marker of success, scalability, and overall high performance of an organization. To illustrate this high performance to funders, we need to show evidence of current and accurate evidence of organizational impact. This ensures that there is a clear understanding of the return on investment for funders.  

What is current data? 

Ideally from the last fiscal or calendar year! With some metrics, like U.S. Census data, there is less recent data available based on how frequently the survey occurs. That’s totally fine, grant reviewers will understand that. Also, you can see if there are local community surveys, also called community needs assessments, that you might draw from. 

Metrics on clients, staff and board members should be taken, at the absolute minimum, twice per year.  

Examples of Datapoints Needed To Write Grants 

1.  U.S. Census Data, or equivalent survey, of the areas that you are serving.  

Example: New York City is the most populous city in the United States, with an estimated 8,804,190 people living in the city, according to the 2020 U.S. Census (up from 8,175,133 in 2010; 8.0 million in 2000; and 7.3 million in 1990). 

2. Unit of Service (how do you quantify the services your are providing?) 

Example: Provided 4 clients with housing for three months- the unit of service would be each instance of providing housing.  

3. Demographic data on both the area that you serve, and the program population that you serve. 

Example: The New York City metropolitan area is home to the largest Jewish community outside Israel. It is also home to nearly a quarter of the nation’s Indian Americans and 15% of all Korean Americans; the largest African American community of any city in the country; and including 6 Chinatowns in the city proper, comprised as of 2008 a population of 659,596 overseas Chinese, the largest outside of Asia. 

4. Quantitative program performance on outputs and outcomes for the target population you are serving. 

Example for Output: 160 families were connected with bags of healthy food from local farmers markets in October 2022. 

Example for Outcome: 160 families experienced improved mood and retention in programs after having individualized counseling sessions with our therapists, as measured in the attached survey. 

5. Qualitative program performance for the target population you are serving 

Example: When we interviewed the Smith family, they described their experience as “the best interaction they had ever had with a social services provider”.  

6. Financial health metrics of your organization, such as amount raised over the previous calendar year. 

Example: We had a landmark year for fundraising in 2022, increasing major gifts by over 20% to $400,000.  

7. Digital media metrics 

Example: In the Instagram post featuring this grant-funded project, we had 456 clicks, 12 reposts and 780 engagements.  

8. Staff Demographics, Titles and Bios 

Example: Bill Woolf (he/him, Principal Consultant) has over two decades of experience working in local, state, and federal government. He started his professional career as a police officer after graduating from the University of Virginia. He completed more than 15 years in law enforcement, where he specialized in advanced investigations of human trafficking, missing and exploited children, gangs, and other forms of organized and financial crime. Bill developed expertise in safety and security, executive protection and movement, civil disturbance, weapons of mass destruction, and mass-casualty response as a FEMA-certified ICS commander. He also served as a federal task officer with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, and the U.S. Marshals Service. 

9. Board Demographics, Affiliations, Roles and Bios 

Example: Amanda Thompson-Winters, Board Secretary (she/her), is a committed Community Engagement Specialist at the Innovative Impact Group. Bringing over 7 years of experience in the nonprofit sector, Amanda has been an essential contributor to various organizations by helping them secure vital funding. She earned a Masters in Nonprofit Management from Georgetown University and has successfully spearheaded numerous programs, thanks to her in-depth knowledge of grant writing and fundraising strategies. As a devoted champion for positive change, Amanda’s expertise and guidance play a crucial role in empowering nonprofits to achieve their goals and create a lasting difference in the communities they serve. 

10. Evidence/research base for programs 

Example: According to a 2019 SAMHSA article, this substance use disorder program design is highly successful, connecting over 2,000 individuals who are diagnosed with OUD with comprehensive support services, including medication-assisted treatment, individualized counseling, and peer recovery coaching. The program has been shown to significantly improve patient outcomes, such as reduced substance use, increased retention in treatment, and enhanced overall well-being, empowering individuals on their journey to recovery and long-term sobriety. 

Helpful Links to Take Next Steps 

Link to Logic Model with Examples for Outputs and Outcomes 

This free template is a fantastic place to start in developing a logic model for your program. Creating a logic model is a great exercise to design the measurable aspects (metrics) of your work. Logic models allow you to see how your resources and activities work together to create concrete outputs and outcomes. 

How to Measure Outcomes 

This super useful, in-depth paper from Strengthening Nonprofits provides a step-by-step guide on the who, what, when, where, how and why of outcomes for nonprofits. If you still have some lingering questions on why metrics are essential, and how they contribute to the overall outcomes and impact of your nonprofit, this is the resource for you! 

Next Steps 

Collecting the necessary data for your nonprofit will require some time and effort, but the return on investment is significant. Not only will this information demonstrate your organization’s potential for success and growth to funders, but it can also be shared with current and prospective trustees, staff, and volunteers to celebrate your community impact and inspire future endeavors! 

If this is (understandably!) not feeling like your cup of tea, or if you would just like some support and guidance as you work on gathering your essential metrics, The Woolf Group (TWG) is here to help. We can help you braid together your stories and data into a flowing narrative that appeals to your target stakeholders. For more information about how we can collaborate on your grant acquisition needs, contact us for a virtual appointment. 


By Catherine Ruff, TWG Social Impact Specialist and Strategy Consultant