Marshall Adult Education


From: Barry Shaffer
Subject: Tracking Down Outcomes Date: Tue, 1 Jun 2004 15:25:48 -0500

Here's an interesting article forwarded to me by Heather Cox at the Minnesota Literacy Council. Thanks, Heather.


Client Outcomes -- Here Today, Gone Tomorrow!

By Bob Wittig

Has this ever happened to you in your agency

John is homeless and has been attending your programs and working with staff for several months. He is making great progress. He has been interviewing for jobs and actively looking for permanent housing. The last conversation he has with your program's case manager is that he thinks! he found a job. All of a sudden John doesn't come to your program any longer. Staff has no way to contact him and therefore has no idea if he got the job, found housing, or if he is back on the streets again.

For many social service organizations, it is a great challenge to track client progress and successes for grant reporting. Clients move to new apartments, have phone numbers disconnected, change jobs, etc -- all of which can make continued contact very difficult.

It can literally be like a client is here one day and totally gone the next. So the challenge is how to capture data in a meaningful manner that can be used for reports and other fundraising purposes.

I certainly struggled with this dilemma while working for smaller nonprofit organizations. As I gained more experience and grew tired of trying to write reports with little to no information or stalking program staff for the data, I realized tha! t I would simply have to figure out other ways of gathering inform ation.

Part of the solution was to enlist the help of program staff to collect the information -- after all it is program staff that typically has the most contact with clients, not the development person.

I also learned that another part of the solution was to try and get as much outcome information as possible while the client is still coming to the program. Gathering outcome data after a client exits a program is next to impossible.

When I was executive director or an adult education program in Washington, DC, we had to think of creative ways to encourage our clients to keep us updated on life happenings and accomplishments.

Here are a few ways that we did it (we used all of them with the theory that the more opportunities clients had to share information, the more likely that information would be shared!):


Over time, staff became accustomed to collecting the data and we had a good set of numbers that we could share with all kinds of funders -- foundations, government, individuals, churches, corporations, etc. As I always say, the information collected for can be used in many other ways.

An organization that can confidently speak about outcomes or share insights into client successes stands a much better chance of not only getting refunded but attracting new source of funds.

I am sure that there are many other creative ways to get outcome information from clients. But I hope that the few I have shared will spark some thought on how to gather data and possibly make it somewhat fun for your staff and clients.

Good luck!

This article can be found at: