PreRamble: In a recent blurb on nonprofit trends to watch in 2013, Nell Edgington, president of management consulting firm Social Velocity, sites a growing demand for nonprofits to articulate what results they hope their work will achieve as a prelude to tracking whether those results are actually happening.

Beyond discussion of outputs like the number of people served or the number of services provided, Edgington suggests that the new results equation must sum up the social change that is accomplished by nonprofit activities — How are people’s lives changed?

Exactly - positive change is the ultimate goal of nonprofit activity, and, it is incumbent upon nonprofit organizations to make the case for — clearly articulate the social value proposition of — their work.

That said, an important dimension of well-articulated results is context. A meaningful articulation of outcomes, impact, and ultimately social value, is most effectively done within in the foundational framework of a bigger picture.  Some relevant big picture organizational reference points might be:

-  Needs – What are the individual/societal, local/global conditions that warrant attention?

–  Assumptions – What overarching principles, theories, values and/or assumptions guide your organization’s work?

–  Operational capacity – What does your organization do? What services do you provide? How do you do your work? What is your presence in your field of influence?

–  Outcome metrics – What are the quantitative outcomes of your work? For example, your organization provided X training sessions for X number of people in 2012.

–  Social value – What change in conditions has come about as a result of your effort?  Ex: The people trained by your organization were able to go out into the community and help people better understand and/or modify their behavior around X …

The Take-Away:  An overview of big picture organizational reference points establishes strong links to an organizational vision/mission and provides critical orientation to social value.  This is the foundation for goal setting, organizational positioning, and clearly articulated results in your year ahead.