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Sunday, January 21, 2018

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Realizing Success - Performance Measurement in Associations
Robert E. Harris, CAE

September, 2009

Associations plan a multitude of activities, projects and programs. Upon their conclusions we often hear volunteers discussing successes and failures:

“That was a cutting edge topic --- we should always pay top dollar to bring in the best speakers.” Another member asks , “How much money did we make, wasn't that our goal?” While yet another states , “Remember the aim was to enroll new members…how many did we get?”

In this instance, each volunteer views the project with a different purpose: education, making money, enrolling members. The example supports the need for applying simple performance standards to association, chamber and foundation programs.

For-profit companies measure inventory, net profit and stock value. Nonprofit organizations are traditionally less precise --- we measure good feelings, influence, financial reserves and member retention, for example.

The process of applying performance measurement is to determine and agree at the start of a project how outcomes will be judged. Set one or two standards against which to measure success.

The Strategic Plan

The umbrella of performance measurement is the organization's strategic plan. It channels activities, guides volunteers and staff, and serves as a roadmap for achieving the mission and goals. It should be integrated with the budget, committees and the staff business plan.

Albeit the strategic plan describes the major goals, it is too broad to provide performance measurement for every project.

Selecting Performance Criteria

The need to agree upon desired outcomes is important for realizing success --- even more so for volunteer and committee driven projects.

The Performance Criteria Chart offers standards and ideals for 18 programs. Use the chart to discuss and set criteria for measuring outcomes (additional criteria can be added and not all principles apply to every organization.) When a project concludes, whether it is the annual budget, an educational session, or a membership drive, there will have been agreement among volunteers and staff as to how success was to be measured.

Attachment: Performance Criteria Chart for Nonprofit Organizations
Digital Copy Available:

Performance Criteria Chart

The chart offers various considerations and principles for activities and programs in nonprofit organizations. The process to is to discuss and set performance criteria against which to measure success, at the onset of planning. Not all criteria will apply to every organization and some organizations will customize criteria.

Activity – Program Performance Criteria

Number of Registrants
Sponsorship Income
Attendee Satisfaction (Surveys)
Net Profit Resulting Publicity
Trade Show Booths
Prospective Member Attendance


Ratio of Members to Prospects
Recruitment and Retention Rates
Allocated Budget Line Item for“Membership


Leadership and Membership Diversity
Adoption and Use of a Diversity Statement
Perceived Image by Various Audiences
Inclusivity Efforts and Programs


Number of Standing Committees
Effectiveness of Task Forces
Process for Charging Committees with
Alignment with the Strategic Plan
Staff Role on Committees

Strategic Plan

Plan is Current and Reviewed Annually
Strategic Plan Report on each Board
Plan Translated into an Action or Staff Plan
Publicity for the Plan and Member
       Awareness of Mission and Goals
Use of a Plan-Champion
Integration with Budget, Committees,       Structure


Timely Delivery and Receipt
Content Quality
Distribution Methods (e-mail, fax, on-line,
Cost to Value Ratio


Website Usage, Purposes and Funding
Income Generated by Website
Licenses and Security, Policies on Software,

Activity – Program Performance Criteria
  Safeguards and Back-Ups
Governance Board Size, Transition, Terms
Length and Effectiveness of Meetings
Accountability, Follow-Through,
Self-Assessment by Board
Agendas, Consent Agenda and

Staff Documents Responsibilities as
       Performance Requirement
Operations Manual, Policy Manual,
       Personnel Manual
Record Retention Schedule Adopted

Leadership Development Nominating Process
Leadership Development and
Effective Recruitment
Board Culture, Sacred Cows
Board Commitment or Pledge Form
Risk Management Risk Management Understood by Board
       and Staff
Legal, Insurance, Accounting
       Professionals Available
Antitrust, Apparent Authority, Public
       Disclosure Understood
Appropriate Insurance
Disaster/Emergency Communication's Plan
Local, State and Federal Filings

Organizational Structure

Subsidiaries (PAC, Foundation, For-
Chapters Not a Liability to Parent
Chapter Affiliation Agreements Used
Benefits, Services Portfolio of Benefits Offer Significant Value
Golden Handcuff Benefit
Three-Way Test for Endorsing Programs -
       need, unique, income

Information Transformed into Tangible
Non-Member Access at Higher Fees
Benefits Priced Appropriately for Members
       and Non-Members
Protection of Intellectual Property.
      Confidentiality, Copyright
Endorsement Agreements
Finances Dues to Non-Dues Ratio
Reserve Goals Set and Met
Operating Ratios Compared to
       Similar Organizations
Comparative Staff Compensation for
      Region and Responsibility
Unrelated Business Income Tax

Activity – Program Performance Criteria
  Policy on Annual Audits
Treasurer's Orientation and
        Information Access

Partnership Programs, Sharing,   
       Cooperation with Allies
Partnerships to Best Position

Image Style Manual
Focus on Branding Organization  
       and Products/Programs
Copyrighting, Confidentiality
Press Releases Distributed Regularly
Logo Protected and Properly Used
Tagline Adopted; Mission Statement
Operations-Assessment Operating Ratios, Policies Used for
ISO 9000, ASAE Peer Review,
        Internal Evaluation Methods
Board Performance Assessment
Staff Assessment
Legal Review Conducted Periodically
Input – Surveys Survey Effectiveness, Frequency of
        Surveys and Focus Groups
Understanding Member Challenges,
        Needs, Expectations

Bob Harris, CAE, offers nonprofit management tools at . He conducts strategic planning, leadership orientation and staff training. Contact him at or 850/570-6000.


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