I spent the last month writing my year-end report for a major funder. I know - a whole month?? Yeah, it's a big report. There’s so much data that’s required and it takes a lot of planning to ensure everything is collected and reported. As is often the case, an evaluation question was slightly reworded mid-year, or a measurement was changed, and suddenly the data collected didn’t quite line up with the questions the funder asked.  

To make sure the new year didn’t have these little glitches, I spent some time, while all the material was still fresh in my mind, mapping out what we needed to do, how we’re going to measure it, and what data would be collected. Let me walk you through it. 

I started with the strategic plan, blocking out each priority, outcome, and indicator. Nothing fancy, just a table in digital Word document. In the first column I entered all the strategic priorities. The second column I entered the outcomes beside the corresponding priority, adding in rows as needed where a priority had more than one outcome. The third column was for indicators, again matching them with the outcomes and priorities. The goal was to keep everything in alignment working left to right.  

I continued blocking out the exact programs my team and I decided (during operations planning) that we would run to fulfill each strategic priority area. After all, why would we run programs that didn’t align with the strategic priorities?  

After all, why would we run programs that didn’t align with the strategic priorities?  

The last set of columns was dedicated to record the data needed to determine how we were going to measure our success/impact. This is a helpful planning tool to decide what evaluation questions you are going to ask, what data you are going to collect, and where all that information will come from. Let me give you a couple examples.  

My non-profit needs to collect data directly from our clients which means we need to ask them questions. Sometimes those questions are a good fit for an evaluation form after an event, and sometimes they are a better fit for the year-end survey. By planning ahead, I determined which questions best fit which evaluation tool. Then I created those tools to have everything ready for use at the start of the year.  

If your non-profit is like mine, funders might ask you for interpretive feedback, where you determine your own success and any needed improvements. I find the best time to answer those questions is at key intervals during the corresponding program or immediately after it finishes – while everything is fresh in my mind. Waiting until the follow-up report is due, to try to remember my thoughts from months previous, usually means important information is forgotten. So, I added these questions to my internal event reporting tool.  

In the end, my map showed a clear path from strategic priority and outcome through to the exact tool my non-profit would use to gather data and what questions would be included in those tools. I feel confident I will have all the information I need at the end of the next operating year to write all my follow-up reports. 

Thanks for reading!


Hi, I'm Christie Saas, former board member, current Executive Director, and non-profit volunteer. I remember well, those early years when I lacked the training, the confidence, and the work-life balance to focus on becoming the best non-profit leader I could be.

Fast-forward past many bumps in the road, lessons learned, and you’ll find me still in the trenches, but a little wiser, a little calmer, and a whole lot happier. I love my work and I want to help you love yours too.

I created to give you tools, tips, and templates to remove the mystery of learning to run a small non-profit. If you’re a brand-new non-profit leader, or a little more seasoned, someone who’s looking to make a meaningful contribution and still have time for a full life away from the job, you’re in the right place.

© Christie Saas 2019 All Rights Reserved


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