Tracking Program Metrics
Why Track Program Outputs:
An important part of is tracking measurable program metrics over time, sometimes called "outputs” (number of participants, acres protected, trees planted, etc.). While these metrics won't tell the whole story of how a program is doing, it will help tell part of the story. It will let you see how and if your program changes over time. These data can inform your understanding of who you are reaching, (as importantly) who you are not reaching, what you are doing, and how these data may or may not change over time. Additionally, this information can be useful for sharing information about your organization/program to your and funders. And if it feels overwhelming, fear not! Many times your organization already collects these data, and all you need to do to figure out a way to organize and share them.
As part of a culturally responsive and , attention needs to be paid to what information you collect now, what new information you need to collect in the future, and how you collect it. Below, you will find guidance and several to help you track program outputs in a culturally responsive and equitable way.
Tracking Outputs Resources/Guidance:
This section provides general guidance about data you may already be or could start collecting. Included in these data descriptions are tips to collect data in ways that respect the participants in your programs as well as the communities from which they come from.
Demographic information -- Who are you serving? Where do they live? What school catchment are they in? Is the school recognized under the federal free and reduced lunch program? What is their primary language?
Demographic information (age, gender, school, school district, primary language, community, etc.) gives you information on who is participating in your program and also can indicate who is not participating. Many times demographic information has already been collected during the program registration, and so you may already have these data points. Other times, you may need to work with teachers, community members, or state-level school information officers to “back-fill” information on the communities served by different cohorts. One thing to note, collecting demographic information can be both difficult and sensitive. One's , , income, age, or the many other ways one may identify is personal information that needs to be treated with respect. In general, consider why are you asking for this information? Is this information necessary? Do you already have to this information in another way? Given these sensitivities, you need to work with your registration team to make sure the demographic questions in the registration process are collected in ways that are respectful to the communities you work with; and always share with your community why you are asking for this information. For further resources on how to respectfully collect demographic information, visit these resources:
- The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation offers a guide on data collection around gender , sexual orientation, race and , and . "More Than Numbers: A Guide Toward , , and (DEI) in Data Collection" is available here: https://cloudspn.tfaforms.net/266232
- Out Maine has many resources related to gender inclusive language on their site that would be incredibly helpful when designing gender-related, or other demographic, . Many sources are geared toward educators, but the lessons learned can be applied to evaluation. The resource, 8 Steps to Inclusive Language in the Classroom, is one place to start.
What types of information could we track and share?
The following list includes data that can be collected during registration and/or accessed by working with your partner organization, like a youth group or school district (if you have one). For ease in data collection and sorting, try using spreadsheets or templates. This can also streamline data collection and can help your registration team collect and update the information. Remember that these spreadsheets are easier to update weekly or monthly rather than yearly!
Participant information to track:
- Number of participants in a program
- Number of programs run
- Ages of participants in a program
- Gender of participants
- Percentage of participants who have special needs
- Number of participants whose primary language is not English
- Zip Codes of participants
If working with students and schools, you might track:
- School districts or schools represented by students in a program
- Number of teachers bringing classes, and of those teachers, how many are repeat teachers (i.e., have they come before?)
- Percentage of participating schools that qualify for the federal program for free or reduced school meals
- How schools heard about the program
Volunteer information to track:
- Number of program volunteers trained
- Number of program volunteer hours
- Demographic information about program volunteers
- How program volunteers heard about the volunteer opportunity
- How many volunteers are repeat volunteers (could be an indicator of longevity or turnover)