Research and Data

Tracking Your Collaborative’s Outcomes

Increasingly, the way to attract and keep funders is to show evidence of collaborative partnerships. To make the case that your shared efforts are making a difference, you need to be able to demonstrate outcomes.

But let’s face it: Even tracking outcomes at the organizational level can be tough. There’s never enough technology, money, or time. Sometimes it’s a clunky old software system that there are no funds to replace. Maybe it’s your trusty admin pouring valuable hours into data entry. There are clients that fall off the face of the earth after initiating services. Privacy, confidentiality, and HIPAA concerns linger. And often there’s no way to see patterns at a glance.

At the collaborative level, all those challenges are amplified, and further complicated by organizations’ information policies.

  • What information can be shared?
  • Who may access it?
  • How often are outcomes reported to the collaborative?
  • How does the backbone organization handle inputting data into a common system if each organization has its own database?

With all these concerns, it’s no surprise that only eight of 54 surveyed local partner collaboratives reported tracking outcomes at the collaborative level.

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We took a quick look at some of the solutions they’ve found:

“[We use] UniteUs.”

Designed to help healthcare and social service providers “work together to address the social determinants of health,” UniteUs software, which helps track referrals and outcomes, is required of communities in the AmericaServes network. Currently situated around metropolitan centers, the newly-added capacity for interstate and internetwork referrals may soon make UniteUs a viable option for rural communities, too. While the tool itself receives positive reviews, the commitment—both in terms of dollars and staff time—is significant.

“[We use] MAACLink, but it doesn't capture everything...”

MAACLink is a Homeless Management Information System and case management software system that was built to support housing service providers. The case management functions are informed heavily by the housing sector of social services, so it’s not surprising that it doesn’t meet the data capture needs of a collaborative tracking veteran issues and outcomes across a variety of need areas.

“For aggregate data shared by partners, we utilize Excel spreadsheets and other data analysis tools.”

Excel is ubiquitous and very affordable. If your collaborative’s data sharing barriers are too high to support a collective data management system, this might be a good place to start. It helps you begin tracking data and outcomes while you secure buy-in from members and build best practices for the logistics of sharing data.

Whether you use a basic Excel spreadsheet, or something fancier, make sure expectations are clear for how you will accept data from partners, and how that data will be used. LivingCities.org recommends building “data sharing agreements” to clarify “when to share data, and in what format.”

“[We use] Efforts to Outcomes software to track demographic data and outcomes of services.”

Even the name “Efforts to Outcomes” says, “we get it.” A “comprehensive outcomes case management” SaaS option from Social Solutions, ETO boasts its own significant impacts: 75% less time spent on standard reports, 40% less on custom reports, and 50% less time spent on back office service delivery management and data integrity management.