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The Nonprofit Outcomes Toolbox: A Complete Guide to Program Effectiveness, Performance Measurement, and Results by Robert M. Penna, 2011.

Many books call themselves “toolboxes,” but this one truly is a book which provides you the tools that you need to assess your outcomes.

For many years nonprofits have struggled with funding because they tend to report outputs instead of outcomes. I believe the reason this has happened so frequently is that many nonprofits struggle with the very concept of “outcomes.” Penna leaves no doubt in the minds of those who read his book. He cites the reasons why many previously popular measuring systems do not work, and teaches readers how to develop a system of outcomes measurements that can show inventors the real difference your organization is making in the community.

I particularly like his explanations about the difference between “funders” and “investors.” In an age of venture philanthropy, it is critical that we view all our donors, whether government, foundation, corporate or individual, as “investors.” These investors invest not just in our organizations, but in our communities and in our world. And Penna’s book shows you how to show investors how your organization is impacting your community and the world.

His thought provoking concept—“is anyone better off?” because of our work, should cause every nonprofit to really think through the process of measuring their outcomes.

He goes on to show the reader how to use outcomes in planning and management. The hands on exercises at the end of chapters are something the reader can put into use immediately and help make the book a practical guide to outcomes measurement.

Reviewed by: Linda Lysakowski, ACFRE

Linda is President/CEO of CAPITAL VENTURE, a full service consulting firm. Linda is one of fewer than 100 professionals worldwide to hold the Advanced Certified Fund Raising Executive designation.

The tools and scorecards he uses can help any entity—whether a business, a government or a nonprofit—measure its outcomes not just in terms of what their organization is doing, but in how they are truly transforming the world in which they operate.


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