Shifting to an Outcomes-Driven Data Practice

Across Four Diverse Programs

For years the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati has been delivering programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all. These programs focus on a range of fields including education, health and wellness, senior services, and more. Across these programs, the organization has collected a lot of data to measure the results of the different day-to-day activities, but with a desire to foster greater organizational alignment and better understand the outcomes within their communities, the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati sought to evolve its approach.


In 2022, the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati set off to build an aligned, robust evaluation system within the organization. This meant revisiting the organization’s overall outcomes, organizing, simplifying, and streamlining the existing evaluation efforts across the organization. For YMCA, this also meant building a data and evaluation system that centered learning, and collecting data around outcomes so that their teams could continuously improve their programs.


To get there, the YMCA of Greater Cincinnati partnered with our team at ResultsLab.


The YMCA selected four program areas to focus on: Inclusive Membership, Seniors, Early Learning, and Out of School Time, with staff members from each of these teams who served as the Impact Champions. Following the ResultsLab’s ACTTM Model – Align, Capture, Transform, we would guide the YMCA teams through the necessary steps to build an evaluation system that would be specific to each of the different programs, while also aligning each of them to the overall organizational strategy. Having identified the four program areas, and the internal YMCA Impact Champions, we were ready to step into the first phase of the project.



Phase 1. Align

The Align phase focused on defining who the YMCA serves, what their members and participants experience, and how they transform. We defined a menu of cross cutting outcomes for YMCA members and participants, encompassing changes in mind, body, spirt, and community. We also defined the essential activities to help drive towards this transformation, including experiences that encompass achievement, relationship, and belonging.

Key developments from this phase included:

  • Impact Readiness Assessment: an assessment to elevate the organization’s strengths and opportunities related to performance measurement practice that can be leveraged to better reach and demonstrate impact.
  • Impact Strategy: a road map, with clear articulation of exactly: who YMCA serves, with what services, realizing what outcomes and impact.
  • Program Models: a detailed plan for each program area that gets very specific on “what you do to get to impact,” including a detailed articulation of key services, including the targeted quantity, quality, and content needed to realize outcomes.

Phase 2. Capture

Using the impact strategy and program models as our anchor, we created a customized measurement plan and toolkit to collect the data that the YMCA would need to drive continuous learning and improvement and drive towards impact. We started by defining YMCA’s core measurement values that would guide the process as we dove into the existing data collection practices, and identified opportunities to streamline, deepen and align these methods.

Key developments from this phase included:

  • Measurement strategy: A guiding document that identifies key measurement goals, values, and focus.
  • Measurement Plans: A detailed framework to answer what should the YMCA measure and how? We created a set of cross cutting indicators for the organization and an aligned measurement plan for each of the four program areas: Inclusive Membership, Early Learning, Out of School Time, and Seniors.
  • Data Tool Audit: A deep dive review of all the data currently collected within each of the four program areas, resulting in recommendations on how to align current practice with the new measurement plan.
  • Data Collection Tool Revision + Alignment:  Development of relevant, strong, and aligned data collection tools that meet the needs of YMCA’s measurement goals, values, and core indicators.



Phase 3. Transform

We then worked with each of the four teams to envision a data dashboard that could drive their learning and decision making, while aligning to what has been determined as core to the shared measurement plan. We worked with program teams and IT to identify the data available to inform the dashboards, while also streamlining ease of data access through Power Bi dashboards. We modeled a round of data use sessions, allowing teams to reflect on the data in their dashboards, ask critical questions, and identify key actions to take forward.

Key developments from this phase included:

  • Implementation Plan
  • Data Dashboards
  • Data Use Practice Sessions: Facilitated sessions using frameworks to build early momentum around how data can be used in meaningful ways for the YMCA.


An Aligned Measurement Practice Designed For Learning

As a large organization like YMCA, and one with numerous programs serving multiple communities, it can be natural for a measurement practice to drift. To avoid it drifting too far, and to build a strong data practice, you must continuously revisit your strategy and approach. It’s a journey and it starts with the foundational steps the YMCA team has taken over the past year.  For any organization, it takes time, space, and practice to ensure data plays a sustained and integrated role within the organization’s fabric. But when you do, it can transform your data practice. And like the YMCA, it can realign teams to understand what data is collected and why, and it can identify the information you need to help drive learning and impact.