I was raised to be “of service” to others. My mother is the first to volunteer for any task that needs doing and we all developed a strong sense of duty towards others. Most likely that is why I spent much of my early career in government and non-profit work before turning to the corporate world.
I was very effective in getting financial and executive support for my projects because I had a secret weapon. I majored in accounting in college, and it gave me a firm grasp of the numeric value of any activity and the importance in being able to attribute activities to the revenue or expense ledger. At a non-profit or government agency I was always the person trying to measure our results, determine the activity’s value relative to costs or expense and then find someone who would be willing to pay for it. We were famous for having all of our employees able to recite chapter and verse how many people we had helped at what cost and with what results, preferably tied to a monetary measurement. Later, when I worked for an insurance company and had to evaluate non-profits for partnership opportunities, an instant mental “No” was rendered when they couldn’t reasonably demonstrate some quantifiable results or outcomes, and the “No” was doubly reinforced if the staff gave me significantly different answers than the director or development director.
It’s not easy to measure things, some defy easy quantitative measurement. If I keep fifteen teenagers in an after-care program that keeps them from going home alone in the afternoon and possibly getting into mischief, how do you quantify it? Graduates of your program may not have made it to college yet, so you don’t have a warm fuzzy story for the fundraising brochure (but as soon as one of them does, put that kid in a college t-shirt, on campus, holding a bunch of textbooks and get that picture! Sells ’em every time).
In for-profit businesses there are initiatives that can also defy easy quantification. What does “deliver better customer service” translate into in dollars and cents? What about community outreach or sponsorships? What exactly does reducing customer response time yield that will make a dent in earnings season?
Find a way to measure it. There is almost always a way. Talk to people in similar arenas, and talk to some not in the industry. Talk to your Human Calculator, give them all the approaches you came up with and have them get creative.
If you can measure the value it adds or the costs it saves, and if you chart incremental progress, you can demonstrate success, which keeps enthusiasm high for your project, even if there is a bobble along the way.
So how DO you measure the Teenager After-Care example?
Studies show that kids between 13 and 15 are X times as likely to get pregnant and Y times as likely to get into trouble that will do Z to their criminal record when they go home alone after school.
A pregnant teenager costs the American taxpayer (or county taxpayer or city taxpayer) $___, while a juvenile arrest costs the taxpayer $____. By funding aftercare for these 15 teenagers we are greatly reducing the odds of these things happening, and saving taxpayers $(all of the above multiplied by the results expected if the 15 kids weren’t in care) which is ten times (or hopefully some other ridiculously high number) the cost of providing funds for the program. So we save our community 9 times every dollar we spend!
How have you found ways to quantify things that defy easy measurement? Share in the comments below, you’ll be helping everyone!
By the way one of my favorite Albert Einstein quotes is “Everything that can be
counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily
be counted.” Very, very true. But to sell your idea, you need to try to count it!
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