At my education center we have lofty goals but, of course, we sometimes have to justify our existence. We tend to measure in people. How many people visit annually? How many attended a program. How many programs did we offer in a year. The answers to these questions are real numbers that are easily computed and analyzed. We also track demographics and how people heard about us. That’s great, but do those numbers tell us if we are succeeding at our mission?
I wonder if I surveyed our long term volunteers right now, if any of them would be able to tell me what the Education Center’s mission is. To be fair, I forget the exact wording. It’s a mouthful, “We connect people to the source of Seattle’s drinking water and its unique cultural and natural history, inspiring confidence, stewardship and sustainability.” Whew! It all seems so intangible. How could we possibly quantify that?
Even if a volunteer could recite our mission flawlessly, is that a measure of our success? I understand the need to have measurable outcomes. I’m a list maker and a scheduler. It’s good to know where you’ve been and where you are going. If I found out that most participants, after visiting our center, think about the Cedar River Watershed when they turn on their faucet I’d be thrilled. So, tell me what you think. How can you capture what’s at the heart of your work in numbers and reports?
Written by: Chris Holland, VAN Steering committee