Broad Support and Innovation Drive Social Sector Shift to Outcomes

September 14, 2017

Washington, D.C. – September 13, 2017 – Hundreds of experts from nonprofit service providers to impact investors to government and philanthropic funders gathered Tuesday to share insights and challenges on the road to a social sector collectively oriented toward outcomes.

In an outcomes orientation, funding is tied to the ability to demonstrate that high-quality services produce results against the country’s most severe problems in health, education, housing, employment, and more. Nonprofit Finance Fund (NFF) and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco (SF Fed) are driving a national “Invest in Results” dialogue to highlight and advance outcomes developments happening right now across the country, with cross-sector and bipartisan support.

“The mindset has changed. The use of evidence really is growing,” Michael Nutter, former Mayor of Philadelphia, told Tuesday’s audience. “I think that you will find more and more mayors making these tough decisions in non-financial disaster circumstances, because they want outcomes. “

“The laboratories of American democracy are working," said John Bridgeland, founder and CEO of Civic Enterprises, and White House Domestic Policy Director under President George W. Bush, adding that it’s time to shine a light on all the “hope spots” and “build the evidence base.”

Tuesday’s event also featured lessons from two important arenas of the outcomes shift: Pay for Success (PFS) financing, an early proving ground of outcomes-based funding, and randomized control trials (RCT), which help service providers gather critical impact data.

Meals on Wheels, which addresses senior hunger and isolation in communities across America, has collected and reported strong evidence of the role that “social determinants” – as well as medical care – play in community health and well-being. The national organization and its Central Maryland chapter are exploring a PFS partnership with Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.

“We have slowly generated an evidence base that demonstrates the impact and the value of Meals on Wheels' services … the combination of that nutritious meal, the visit, companionship, human connectedness, doing safety checks,” said Lucy Theilheimer, Chief Strategy and Impact Officer, Meals on Wheels America. “Our long-term goal in Pay for Success is that healthcare is going to see the light and begin to pay for these services so that we can serve all those in need. The biggest challenge we have faced was getting the data that we needed. These are substantial projects and require a lot of time and money.”

Urban Alliance, which supports economically disadvantaged youth through paid internships, formal training, and mentorships, found in a six-year RCT that young people who went through their training retained the professional skills they obtained over a long period of time, said Eshauna Smith, CEO. Now in the early stages of a second RCT, Smith had these lessons to share with other nonprofits:

  • "You have to staff up, to build the capacity to do this work right;”
  • "Establish your own internal performance measurement system before you embark on an RCT study"
  • “Overcommunicate internally and externally – you cannot educate folks enough about why this study is important,” and,
  • “It’s really hard to fundraise for evaluation.”

Visit to learn more about the campaign, and to read and get copies of the book What Matters: Investing in Results to Build Strong, Vibrant Communities. Join the conversation: #investinresults

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