High Peak Financial


This blog is written by Austin Conner and covers a mix of business topics that interest me.

I am currently a contract CFO and have worked with companies in a number of industries.

Creating a Data-Driven Social Impact Organization

Step 1: “Theory of Change” Process

The theory of change (TOC) process is the series of steps for how your organization plans to achieve social impact. Its methodology also assists in helping your organization create a more focused mission. The theory of change process helps you establish a detailed path of intermediary steps that will lead to the success or outcome you seek.  ActKnowledge, a leader in the development of TOC process, lays out steps to create a theory of change, which is neatly summarized in Kathleen Kelly Janus’s book, Social Startup Success:

  1. Identify your goals and assumptions: start by asking the questions “what does success look like?”

  2. Map backward to think through the steps toward achieving the desired outcomes.

  3. Identify interventions: these are the things the program has to do in order to achieve the outcomes.

  4. Determine the indicators of progress, the key performance indicators; identify what changes in the behavior of beneficiaries you are seeking and how much change over what period of time.

  5. Develop a figure/flowchart that summarizes 1-4 and write a narrative description of the theory.

  6. Create a dashboard to track the KPIs, test assumptions, and measure progress over time.

Step 2: Measure and Track the Data

The next step is to turn the outcomes into measurable goals that can be tracked regularly.  Similar to OKR (Objective and Key Results) in the for-profit world, the SMART framework, first produced by George T. Doran in 1981, is popular with non-profits. A key element in data collection is to make sure numbers are easy to understand and that there is a clear link between the work and outcome.

S.M.A.R.T. Goals:

  1. Specific: there is a clearly defined goal.

  2. Measurable: there is an objective calculation of the goal such as “how much” or “how many.”

  3. Attainable: achieving the goal is within the realm of possibility.

  4. Relevant: there is a connection between the work and the intended outcome.

  5. Time bound: there is a start date and a target date.