Commitments Assessment Tool for Nonprofits

Human-serving nonprofit organizations are constantly working in an atmosphere of volatile change and high demand to demonstrate impact and value for funders, policymakers and, ultimately, the clients they serve. A new assessment tool, developed and validated by AIR in collaboration with the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities (Alliance) provides a powerful means to help nonprofits measure the markers of high impact performance - evaluating not just operational practices, but the culture and values that distinguish human-serving organizations. 

Available to more than 450 youth and family-serving organizations in the Alliance at no cost, the tool is considered unique because "it sets performance standards and measures organizational capacity in areas that have not been addressed in existing assessments, including engaging service participants as active contributors to agency mission and advancing equity," notes AIR researcher Dr. Michael Marks.  The results will allow organizations to benchmark against peer organizations and prioritize areas of improvement.

The assessment helps nonprofits to:

  • Measure how well they perform in ten "Commitments of High-Impact Nonprofits" areas
  • Gain insight from customized analysis
  • Establish baseline performance metrics
  • Determine what to improve, and clarify what is working well

The tool looks at ten domains associated with high performance, as identified in a literature review commissioned by the Alliance.  The assessment was developed through extensive testing, and validated with a sample of over 500 participants representing different staff levels (i.e., from CEOs to front line workers) across 29 nonprofit organizations in 21 different states. The sample included a broad range of organizations -- from secure residential facilities for delinquent youth to community-based youth and family resource centers, making the tool versatile for use across a wide range of youth and family-serving settings.

In addition to applying immediate benefits to the field, the research conducted will be ongoing and have long range implications.  “As more organizations complete the assessment and comparative data are accumulated over time, the relationship between organizational capacity and organizational impacts can be studied.” said Dr. Patricia Campie, AIR Principal Researcher and Project Principal Investigator. "We look forward to continued partnership with the Alliance to study the utilization of the assessment in the field and identify impacts from its use over time,” said Campie.

Each of the assessment’s 10 domains includes 14 to 17 items, using a six-point Likert type of scale. Each of the ten domains has a high degree of reliability and can be used as separate measurement tools, enabling the nonprofit to target efforts at improving performance within one or more domains of interest:

Alliance ten icons representing 10 domains

1. Leading with Vision: skilled and diverse senior leadership team, setting the vision and maintaining high integrity, adopting transformational and adaptive leadership policies and practices, building a sustainable organization, and monitoring performance.

2. Governing for the Future: board composition and operations, the generative role of the board, the strategic role of the board, the fiduciary role of the board, and the performance monitoring role of the board.

3. Executing on Mission: mission alignment, program integration, and cultural/linguistic adaptation; program/services management and oversight; and operational supports including human resources planning to develop a workforce that is prepared for work in partnership on high-impact community initiatives.      

4. Innovating with Enterprise:  innovation; fostering idea generation, creativity, and entrepreneurship; and monitoring innovation efforts.

5. Co-Creating with Community: co-creation, community engagement competencies, and monitoring co-creation efforts.

6. Engaging All Voices:  engagement practices and competencies, types of engagement, and monitoring engagement performance.

7. Measuring that Matters: multiple perspectives of measurement, input on measures, knowledge production, uses of knowledge, knowledge translation, monitoring capacity to measure what matters, achieving gains in community and system-level impacts.

8. Partnering with Purpose: strategic capabilities, program/service management and oversight capabilities, cultural and linguistic capabilities, operational support capabilities, measuring progress on partnership efforts.

9. Investing in Capacity: investing in capacity, human capital, financing, technology, infrastructure, core support functions, and performance management.

10.  Advancing Equity: organizational diversity, addressing organization-specific disparities, promoting a safe work environment and leadership/risk taking in reducing community- and system-level inequities.

To learn more about the Commitments Assessment Tool, visit the Alliance website.

Patricia Campie
Principal Researcher