If you run a for-profit business, the bottom line is your financial profit. The goal is to make money. At the end of your day, you are measured by how much money you lost or made. That’s the important thing. People in public enterprise chat frequently about the idea of businesses with a dual bottom line: money and sociable impact.
The financial return on investment is important. But so is the public result of your business. There’s also companies that talk about a triple bottom line: financial, cultural, and environmental/ecological impact. And a quadruple bottom line: financial, social, environmental, and future impact. You can see where this is going. Lines upon lines. More good stuff to strive for, less clearness in attaining them. We are especially guilty of the in the nonprofit arts. Since the majority of our organizations don’t possess one very specific, measurable mission (i.e. “ending persistent homelessness”), we measure a lot of things.
The beautiful part of an easy mission is the chance to explore diverse areas of its fulfillment. The depressing part is the inability to see obviously and concretely whether and to what degree you are achieving your goals. I’ve been thinking about all this recently because I’m amid negotiating a relationship with a for-profit real property developer to improve a public plaza adjacent to my museum.
One of things that is really obvious from these discussions is how clear he could be on his bottom line. He cares about the public impact of his projects, but by the end of the day, he uses financial revenue to measure their success. He’s got clarity about what success appears like.
- Buying refreshments for yourself
- Fact Tables and Dimension Tables
- 15 – Rail Nation
- An oversupply of goods and services
- Map to the Catholic office
In contrast, I’ve got a mirrored funhouse of measurements for success. How do we value attendance against diversity of attendees? Depth versus breadth of development? Individual outcomes for participants versus collective final results for the grouped community? If there’s just one thing at the end of your day that people care most about, the facts? We spend too much time debating what the required impact is and not enough time about how to attain it.
If we are constantly debating what “good” or “quality” appears like, we’re losing time we’re able to be using honing our work to better deliver on the social impact we’ve all decided is important. We collect too much scattershot data and do not invest in deep measurement on the things that matter most. We’ve been on a large evaluation push within my museum, and the hardest part is editing ourselves right down to a few indications that we feel consistently reflect impact. Not the things we’re interested in for a specific program. Not the things we’re interested in but don’t relate with our impact statement. It’s hard to lessen, but it is leading us to more successful conversations about the data.
When we measure less, we attend to the individual indicators more. When we enter partnerships–especially with entities from different worlds–we can’t clearly express our purpose and needs. I’m viewing this strongly in my negotiation with this developer. The task is forcing me to hone in on what is absolutely MOST important to our organization as it pertains to developing shared goals in relationship. I can’t hands him a fifty-page engagement handbook and expect him to glean which parts are essential.
I need a small handful of specific goals so he can know very well what success looks like for us as quickly and obviously as I am aware what success appears like for him. It could allow organizations to deceive themselves in what is most important. In case your director, your board, or your boss is making decisions based on one piece of data, then that’s the data that is most significant to your bottom line.