“If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”

By: Priya Kothari

Here at Simply the Basics, we’re excited to announced that we’ve started to undertake an evaluation of our impact. Even though we’re a pretty new organization, it’s important to know that the work we are doing is truly helping people to meet their basic needs so that they can focus on bigger goals. Where things are working, we want to continue doing them. And if our evaluation identifies new opportunities to support our partners, then we’re excited to find that out too. Having results about our impact will also enable us to meaningfully connect to future partners and funders, so that we can grow and support more people, in San Francisco and across the globe.  

A straightforward way of evaluating would be to count outcomes. How many hygiene kits have we given out? How many Academy classes have we run? How many hours do nonprofits save by partnering with us? But we love a challenge! And so we’re asking ourselves a more difficult question. In addition to our outcomes, what’s our impact? What’s the lasting change that’s happening as a result of our work? What’s the meaningful difference that we’re making to people’s lives?

For example, our nonprofit partners tell us that by having us provide them with hygiene kits and sort the in-kind donations they receive, they save time. That’s an outcome that we can count and that we’re excited about. But what we really want to know is, does having this extra time get our partners closer to meeting their goals, like getting more of their clients into supportive housing? That’s the impact we are looking to have. Or for our Academy clients, a successful outcome might be an improvement in their physical and emotional wellbeing from participating in our classes, but lasting impact would be that what they learn gets them closer towards their goals, like securing a job.

Earlier this year, we rolled out some pilot surveys and our initial results strongly suggest that we are helping nonprofits be more effective in serving their clients. All of our nonprofit partners reported that by not having to seek hygiene products and sort in-kind donations, they are able to get closer to meeting their organization’s end goal. Nonprofits are able to do more because of us. We estimate that we could be saving our nonprofit partners around $50,000 annually in staff time. That’s just in one year and with 30 partners. And all of our partners surveyed said that they would be extremely likely to recommend Simply the Basics to a coworker in the nonprofit sector. We’re excited about the possibilities of what we might achieve as we continue to grow.

Next month, we intend to ask our clients about the change in their emotional and physical wellbeing, and check in with them at periodic intervals to track their progress towards meeting their end-goals. We also want to look at the contribution our entirely volunteer-run model makes to the wider economy. We’re excited to share more about our impact as the year progresses. We’d love to hear your ideas about how we might evaluate our impact. Share them here or on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.


About the Author: Priya Kothari is a consultant economist who works with Bay Area organizations with a social mission to evaluate programs and set up measurement systems. She spent 10 years working in senior roles at the Bank of England and Save the Children UK before relocating to San Francisco. Priya has established our method of evaluation, collecting data, and analyzing results.