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Making Better Decisions: A Program Manager’s Guide to Performance Management

By February 20, 2019

By: Eric Magnuson, Director of Solutions Engineering, Exponent Partners and Richard Saunders, Human Services Practice Solution Architect, Exponent Partners

“How do you effectively capture program data (performance measurements) to make better decisions (performance management)?”
Brad Dudding, Chief Impact Officer, Center for Employment Opportunities

How data tracking and collection are the foundation of building organizational capacity to perform, deliver, and learn, then performance management, then outcomes management, then program innovation, and then impact evaluation.

As illustrated by the chart above, organizations that want to improve performance start with Data Tracking / Collection, often for compliance reasons and reporting to funders. They then move on to setting goals and targets with the objective of improving quality and achieving greater efficiency – this is Performance Management. Outcomes data and Outcomes Management are then used to validate the theory of change and to measure their impact.

Performance Management is about providing staff with real-time, actionable data to measure program outputs in a transparent way.

To demonstrate how nonprofits can achieve performance management with a modern case management system, we will examine a workforce development program using Exponent Case Management (ECM). Many nonprofits use ECM to manage their workforce development programs. These organizations often focus on continuous employment as a program outcome: clients being employed continuously for a specified timeframe, such as a year. Performance measures for a continuous employment outcome often include the number or percentage of clients that have completed training, interviews, job placements, and job retention milestones (e.g. 30 days, 90 days).

Example of how performance measures and targets for continuous employment can be achieved with ECM:
Assume a workforce development organization with four different program sites – all implementing the same program services (shared program model) – monitors the following performance measures and targets:

  • Number of clients completing Job Training after program enrollment. Target Goal: 40 per month for the program, 10 per site.
  • Number of clients getting placed in a job after completing interviews. Target Goal: Eight per month for the program, two per site.
  • Number of clients completing their 120-day and 365-day retention milestone after getting placed. Target Goals: Eight and five per month for the program.

Measurement in Action

  • Using ECM’s Case and Service Management functional modules to track training attendance and completion, job placement, and job retention, all four program sites are able to provide the same services and track the same data.
  • With Salesforce Reporting and Dashboard features, staff can measure the performance of the key indicators in real-time at the individual site and program level.
  • For job training, job placement, and job retention indicators, front-line workers, supervisors, and program managers at each site can monitor their performance to their individual targets.
  • The dashboard below measures the key indicators at a program and program site level.
  • The Job Trainings Completed This Month component provides a performance measure of where the program is in its monthly job readiness training goal, enabling staff to clearly see in real-time, at-a-glance, where they stand. The Last 3 Months chart enables staff to see trends at the organization and at the program site level.

Job Placements This Month

Job Placements This Month provides a gauge of the number of clients that have started a job as a result of a successful job search. The Last 3 Months chart enables staff to see trends at the organization and at the program site level.

The Last 3 Months chart enables staff to see trends at the organization and at the program site level.

Finally, job retention goals can be monitored to make sure that clients placed in jobs are able to keep them, on their path to achieve the long-term outcome of stable employment.

Job retention goals can be monitored to make sure that clients placed in jobs are able to keep them, on their path to achieve the long-term outcome of stable employment.

Further detail of the data behind the report can be revealed by clicking into the report and further drilling into the data. (Shown below is the view after running the Met 365 Day Retention this Month report.)

Met 365 Day Retention this Month report

How to Use Measures for Program Improvement

  • Having the data and tools to monitor program activities loses its value unless insights are garnered and actions taken by staff.
  • What types of insights can be gained by drilling in and asking questions?
      • Not meeting targets could mean that critical data is not being captured in the system correctly or not being entered in a timely manner.
      • One program site having a lower Job Training graduation rate could be helped through sharing of best practices by staff at another site on how to help clients achieve job readiness.
      • Analysis of short falls on job placement goals could lead to a re-evaluation of the employer recruitment process or interview training.
      • Failure to meet critical job retention goals could be improved by analyzing the number and frequency of successful interactions with clients.
  • These are just a few examples to illustrate that the measurement alone is not enough.
  • Constant, consistent analysis of performance in a collaborative, open way can help staff gain insights and take action. Even incremental small improvements can result in measurable improvement in the program.

Performance Management Helps Nonprofits with Outcomes

Performance management is a critical step in an organization’s evolution from program data tracking to managing with data to understanding outcomes with data. Using ECM with Nonprofit Cloud for program management provides program staff access to tactical data – at the client, team, site, program, and organization level, as well as actionable real-time information – that they can use to manage the outputs and measures they are accountable for. For a success story example, read about the Institute for Family Development. Climbing to the peak to outcomes management is ultimately required for mission success.

To take your program to the next level, read this impact measurement e-book and join the upcoming webinars hosted by Exponent Partners and to hear nonprofit program management success experts share what outcomes management can do for your mission.

About the Authors
Eric MagnusonEric Magnuson, Director of Solutions Engineering, Exponent Partners
As Exponent Partners’ Director of Solutions Engineering, Eric applies his experience to help design solutions for our prospective clients.

Eric brings 18 years of experience in nonprofit technology consulting, and previously worked for Groundwire, where he led a product initiative developing innovative apps in support of nonprofits. Some of the apps he helped bring to market, such as Volunteers for Salesforce, have become vital tools for thousands of nonprofits. He has also, at various points in his career, consulted to nonprofits on agile-scrum process, content management systems, donation management, online advertising and business plan development.

Eric holds an MBA in Sustainable Business from the Bainbridge Graduate Institute and a BS in computer science from Albright College. Outside of work he goes camping with his family, runs as much as possible, and drinks fine Northwest brews in Seattle, WA.

Richard SaundersRichard Saunders, Human Services Practice Solution Architect, Exponent Partners
Richard is our Human Services Practice Solution Architect and lead product manager in the Exponent Partners product division. He works with a team to design and develop the Exponent Case Management application for human service organizations.

Richard has over 20 years of experience providing clients with technology solutions, including over 10 years for human service organizations using the Salesforce platform. He has been instrumental in the design and development of the Exponent Case Management solution. His technical expertise includes technical project management, systems analysis, solution design and implementation, CRM and constituent relationship management (Salesforce: Apex and VisualForce), client information management systems for businesses and nonprofits. Richard is a Certified Developer. Richard holds a BA in Computer Science/Business from Western Washington University.

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