Key Metrics


Key metrics are measures that indicate the core success of your organization. Examples may be:

  • Number of people served
  • Reduction in mortality rate
  • Acres of land conserved

Your team's key metrics will live within Section 1 of your strategic plan, the Compass. 

If you and your team are creating your first strategic plan then identifying key metrics is optional for now. However, you’ll want to return to it at some point since having a set of key metrics will help you with program design and appealing to board members and funders that want to gauge the organization's success.  

Categories of Metrics

There are two broad categories of key metrics that you'll want to consider using: output and outcome. 

An output metric is a direct measure of your organization's efforts such as:

  • 5000 program participants
  • 12 trainings held
  • 15 field trips
  • $1,500,000 loaned

An outcome metric indicates your organization’s ultimate results or impact:

  • 5% increase in graduation rate
  • 3% increase in literacy
  • 200 new small businesses launched
  • 45 metric tons of carbon reduced

Output metrics tend to be easier to track and measure than outcome metrics. But outcome metrics are better at answering the ultimate "why' of your organization. 


Guidestar has created the Common Results Catalog, a long list of the key metrics that organizations within their database are measuring. Most of these metrics are outcome metrics. Reviewing this list may spur some ideas of your own. 

Some Big Tips

Identifying the perfect set of key metrics is difficult, if not impossible. This is one of those cases where the perfect is the enemy of the good.

So, just get started and don't worry about whether you have the perfect set of metrics. Like so many things with strategic planning, work towards creating a regular process of measuring, reporting, and analyzing your metrics and, over time, you can adjust. 

Further, do your best to identify no more than five key metrics. It can be tempting to want to measure everything. But keeping the list small will both focus you and your team on what's most important and also increase your chance of success at actually measuring, reporting, and revising your key metrics over time.