SMART Metrics for Nonprofits

Measuring outcomes to reliably report success

Cisco gives the highest priority and funding consideration to proposals that clearly articulate the planned results of their efforts, and the metrics by which those results will be measured. We look for organizations using SMART metrics: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timely.

What are SMART metrics?

Specific: Specific metrics are clear and well-defined. Both the grantee and the grantor know what is expected, and the grantor can monitor and assess actual performance against the metrics

Measurable: Progress toward metrics is monitored while work is underway. A measurable metric, tracked by the nonprofit, shows when work has been done and when a metric is achieved

Achievable: Achievable metrics ensure that everything is in place to meet the metric. If the grantee does not reach its goals, it needs to be able to explain why

Realistic: Metrics should be realistic. A metric may have a dependency, such as particular skills, access to resources (computers, tools, etc.), or access to key people and management support. Realistic metrics take these dependencies into account

Timely: Descriptions of metrics should include timelines, showing what is required, when. This may include details of delivery, stating (if relevant) where metrics are to be completed. Giving a timeline adds an appropriate sense of urgency and ensures that the metrics do not extend over an unreasonably long period

Examples of SMART metrics

  • In year 1, we will serve at least 1700 children and youth; 500 in Renaissance Village, and 1200 in four elementary or middle schools
  • In 2006-07, the number of Hispanic students participating rose to 5592, an increase of 61%. The target for 2007-08 is 7500 Hispanic students, or an additional gain of 34%
  • Staff to client ratio improves from 1:35 to 1:50, with a stretch goal of 1:70 by the end of 2009
  • Reach 460 schools and 84,000 students in 2008, and 770 schools and 134,000 students in 2009

Examples of metrics that are not SMART

  • Better communication
  • Children will be safer, happier, and have positive attitudes about their experience in schools and transitional communities
  • Our measurement involves a structure by which each team sets goals, outcomes, and benchmarks, which are then visited and re-evaluated throughout the year on a quarterly basis

Several organizations offer support for nonprofit organizations to develop performance measurement. To learn more, visit The Center for What Works.

Explore our grant programs

Global Impact Cash Grant Program

Funding to multiply the tech-fueled impact of organizations with national or multinational operations

India Cash Grant Program

Funding for programs that serve the underserved in India by applying technology

Product Grant Program

Donating Cisco networking technology to help nonprofits make innovative use of the internet