Dealing with KPIs

graphs and tables

Dealing with KPIs

At nfpSynergy, we are really passionate about helping charities to do things better.

We are also aware of the key role monitoring and evaluation plays for charities. Whether the demand comes from funders, trustees, donors or the general public, we have seen an increase in calls for performance measurement across the charity sector.


Do we all have the best performing and up to date ‘GPS’?

Before working at nfpSynergy I worked in the private sector where Key Performance Indicators were part of my day-to-day vocabulary. I was working in market research agencies where we were producing KPI reports daily for our clients. To be honest, it was not clear if KPI reports were fully read, understood and put into action, or if they were simply archived and treated as a necessary piece of paperwork.

I am convinced that when selected and used in a relevant way, Key Performance Indicators can be a powerful and vital tool when managing a business, because a company can’t just navigate blind. I think exactly the same applies to charities. They need a clear road map (targets, objectives) and an accurate location tool to know where they are and what’s the best route ahead (that’s where KPIs come in).

However we know that organisations across sectors (be it the private, public or charity sectors) struggle to fully understand performance measurement and how to deliver it.[1] After an increase in the number of queries and projects on this topic from our clients, we decided to do some research into the complex topic of KPIs. As a starting point we conducted some desk research in order to get to grips with the topic. As part of our search for clarity we came up with our own definition of KPIs:

KPIs can be defined as “a number of indicators set to measure the performance of an organisation, its progress towards targets and goals, to make sure that it is ‘on track’ to reach its broader objectives and mission. KPIs are usually quantifiable, measurable and timed.”

Are we getting it right with this definition? Or do you see KPIs in a different way?


Finding the best fit

The truth is that there isn’t one unique definition for Key Performance Indicators, nor is there a standard way to tackle them: performance measurement and setting KPIs has to be a tailored process, because they have to be closely linked to your own strategy. This is certainly where I’ve found one of the main difficulties lies. From speaking to charities, we know that there are some guides and toolkits out there to help with measuring performance, but that charities still struggle to make their KPIs relevant, useful and ultimately linked to their strategic objectives.


We’d like to hear from you

At nfpSynergy we are conducting research into how KPIs are used within the charity sector. We would like to understand the emotions, motivations and any struggles that lie beneath Key Performance Indicators, in order to help charities making use of this common tool in the best possible way. We don’t want measurement to be a burden but instead want it to be a useful tool for everyone, which can hopefully be achieved by creating a shared, collective knowledge of KPIs in the charity sector.

Now it’s over to you; we are sure you’ve got interesting experiences of using (or battling with!) KPIs. If you want to take part, we’d love to hear from you about your experiences, whether good or bad.

[1] Barr S., 2015, Measure What Matters: How to end your performance measurement struggles and reach your goals sooner and with less effort

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