Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to a presentation by one of Kansas City’s foremost scientific minds. During his remarks, he made a comment that stuck with me. ‘The best thing about Science’, he stated, ‘is that it doesn’t care about presumption, assumption, or spin, but instead demands proof and data to draw any conclusion.’ It struck me that while the work we do every day at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City doesn’t involve Bunsen burners, eye flush, and microscopic evaluation, we rely on data and metrics to evaluate our program with the same eye toward proof and data-driven outcomes.
To illustrate how we use data to evaluate success, please consider the chart below.
This chart showcases the cumulative growth of BBBSKC (red line) compared to the growth of the entire BBBS network (purple line) over the past nine years. The BBBSKC line in the chart tells a story. At an average of just over 5% growth over that time period, BBBSKC has focused on building a strong, sustainable agency. We’ve resisted the urge to change our approach and focused our marketing messaging to Bigs on the need for long-term commitment to our Littles. We’ve resisted the urge to seek out government grants, choosing instead to invest resources toward building sustainable income, small donors, and strong corporate relationships. We’ve maintained a commitment to our program staff, using data to manage capacity and ensure that we are both a donor efficient organization and a great place to work. This investment in foundational programming, smart fundraising, and data-driven management has produced amazing results for our agency and our community.
We also use data to identify areas within our organization that needs additional attention.
12 Month Retention, the percent of matches made that last at least one year, is one of the most important metrics in our business. Research around mentoring is almost universal—for a match to have the kind of life-changing impact necessary to serve children, the mentoring relationship must be consistent (2-4 hours per week) and long-term (lasting longer than 12 months). BBBSKC has been remarkably consistent in achieving a 12-month retention rate that ranges from 65% to 68%. However, in comparison to our national data, it is evident that the network trend is beating our own performance. In response to that, we’ve doubled down on quality review, increased our efforts to evaluate customer service, and, this summer, will host a fellow from Education Pioneers, an organization that offers data science professionals placement at successful non-profits to provide the kind of data analytics usually reserved for cutting edge business.
At BBBSKC, we value data as the best way to evaluate our impact in our community. As we move toward another year of 100% of our 12th grade Littles graduating (three years in a row), a program defining expansion of service through our ACES program, and a fifth nomination as the best large market BBBS agency in America, this approach continues to serve our children and our community well.