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Keeping Score In Business as Mission and Microfinance

By Chris Horst - A few weeks ago, my wife and I had the privilege of staying with gracious HOPE supporters at their beautiful home in Breckenridge, Colorado.

In addition to enjoying the beauty of the mountains, we also love hanging out with them and their family. Their 8-year old son, Nathan, is a consistent source of entertainment.

During a dinner conversation, Nathan was informing us about his Little League baseball season. He started rattling off the scores of his team’s last few games. His parents quickly interjected, sharing that the league and coaches don’t actually keep track of scores. Nathan retorted. “We all keep score anyway. We always keep score.” I smiled, thinking back to my own youth baseball experience when I did the exact same thing. Sure there were no scoreboards, but every single kid on the diamond knew the score.

Innately, I think, we love to keep score. Why? Because we want to know how we’re doing. It’s more than just caring about winning and losing. We want to have some sort of tangible measure of our performance. Are we succeeding? Are we catching up? How bad is it?

Keeping score answers those questions. In working with the poor, many times it’s easy to justify not keeping score. “We’re helping people…isn’t that enough?” I’m not sure it is. I think we need to keep score. It’s not just about knowing if we’re winning. Even if our results illustrate we’re behind, at least we have a gauge of how we’re doing.

One area which is especially challenging to “keep score” is in measuring HOPE’s spiritual impact. It is fairly straightforward to track client repayment, savings balances, and client retention. It is much more challenging to gauge whether our work is having an impact on the spiritual climate of the communities and families with whom we work.

Despite its challenges, we have made a commitment as an organization to find creative ways to keep score. Just like Nathan’s little league team, each of our players, i.e. our microfinance institutions, have found ways to keep score in the past. But, we have taken it a step forward by building a scoreboard to provide global metrics. This month we have constructed that scoreboard by rolling out comprehensive global metrics to track spiritual impact both at an institutional level (what activities are taking place?) and at an impact level (how effective are these activities?).

We’re keeping score so we can know, beyond speculation and inspiring anecdotes, how many Bibles have been distributed to our clients and how they’re using them. We’re keeping score so we can know if our microfinance programs are partnering with churches and how those partnerships are expanding and enhancing our impact. We’re keeping score so we can know that devotions are being held in our branch offices and that those biblical lessons are being shared in our community banks. We have built a scoreboard so, like Nathan insightfully shared, we can get a clear picture of how we’re doing.

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posted by Justin Forman | 9.03.2009 - 6:36 AM

2 Comments:

"You can't manage what you can't measure" I'm a big proponent of measuring if feasible. Without metrics it would be really hard to determine what needs improvement over time.
commented by Anonymous James, 3:32 AM  

Nicely written, Chris. Keep up the good work!

-Jesse
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 9:34 AM  

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