Community-Wide Impact, and Beyond

From big foundations to elementary students raising money through Read for Seeds, all donors want to know that their investment has made a difference.

In the nonprofit world, we often describe that return on investment as “impact.” And while there is no single way to define impact, it can be simply described as “a measurable change.” Measuring and communicating impact is all about answering the question: How did my organization move the needle toward a happier, healthier, or more equitable world?

In January, I started collaborating with Gaining Ground to better understand (and articulate) the answer to this often-tricky question. Over the past several months, I have interviewed staff, board members, partners, and peers to better understand the impact the organization has on its own community and beyond.

Together, we have developed Gaining Ground’s theory of change, a tool that maps how the farm accomplishes its mission and established success metrics that identify what kind of impact the organization seeks to have in the world. We have explored creative ways to learn how families in need are affected by the availability of free, fresh, organic produce, and we have developed new survey instruments to better understand the volunteer experience. And we’re just getting started!

Measuring and understanding impact is an dynamic journey full of learning, reflection, and change. I feel incredibly lucky to accompany Gaining Ground on this rich, rewarding journey and look forward to harvesting (and sharing!) insights as we continue to learn and grow through this process.