December 2, 2003

Abstract: Great Valley Center

Great Valley Center management needed a simple yet systematic method for determining whether they were on track to achieve their ambitious goals.

By: Don Howard, Susan J. Colby

"What gets measured gets managed." This old adage applies to nonprofits, too, and it may explain why performance measurement is becoming more prevalent in the nonprofit sector. Nonprofit leaders increasingly are seeing performance measurement as a valuable management tool to help their organizations achieve greater impact. At the same time, performance measurement can get very complicated very fast. It's remarkably easy to get hung up trying to collect measures that won't really tell you very much. Moreover, some things can't be quantified easily.

When Great Valley Center secured funding in 2002 to add six new programs, performance measurement became paramount for Carol Whiteside, GVC's president. She and her management team needed a simple yet systematic method for determining whether GVC was on track to have the impact they'd intended and for sharing results with key stakeholders. Whiteside asked the Bridgespan Group to help her organization construct a new performance measurement system that would satisfy these needs.

At the conclusion of our engagement, GVC and Bridgespan had struggled jointly (and in large part succeeded) in finding the right level of performance measurement for the organization as a whole and for each of its programs. Along the way, we discovered that the process of putting measures in place also increased GVC's strategic clarity and tested the cause-and-effect logic that linked each of their programs to the impact they hoped to achieve.

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