Community Indicators for Your Community

Real, lasting community change is built around knowing where you are, where you want to be, and whether your efforts are making a difference. Indicators are a necessary ingredient for sustainable change. And the process of selecting community indicators -- who chooses, how they choose, what they choose -- is as important as the data you select.

This is an archive of thoughts I had about indicators and the community indicators movement. Some of the thinking is outdated, and many of the links may have broken over time.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Indicators of Nonprofit Impact

Many of us have tried to find a good indicator or two that describes the nonprofit sector in our community. We try surveys of volunteer activity, measures of philanthropic donations (sometimes from self-reports from federated campaigns, sometimes through IRS records.) Every now and then we conduct an economic impact study and tout the importance of the nonprofit sector.

But the strength of the nongovernmental, not-for-profit, civil sector tends to get missed. We know it's an important factor in the social well-being of the community, in the social capital in the community, in civic engagement, in community health, and more. But strong indicators are few and far between.

Good news is on the horizon. The Miami Herald reports on a new Johns Hopkins study of civil society. From the article:

In the United States, nonprofit groups and volunteers represent 7.2 percent of the gross domestic product -- making the sector larger than the construction, transportation and utilities industries, the study found.

The report, which was released last week, comes after eight nations -- including the United States -- began implementing United Nations' guidelines that measure nonprofit economic contributions, including the value of volunteer work.

''We now have an officially sanctioned method for capturing the economic scale and importance of civil society and volunteering around the world,'' said Lester Salamon, the report's author and the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies. ``What it is revealing is that this set of organizations is far more important than we have realized.''

Read the article for more good news. This may be a beginning for better indicators of the nonprofit sector.

How do you measure nonprofit activity? Share your indicators by commenting on this post.


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