Connecting American youth and today’s athletes to cultivate character and community

Many of the folks involved with In the Arena are either athletes or sports enthusiasts, so it should come as no surprise that we like to keep score. In fact, placing the strongest of emphases on our organizational effectiveness and our program’s outcomes is critical to In the Arena’s growth.

John Wood, the driving force behind Room to Read, one of the world’s most dynamic not-for-profits, places the responsibility for scalable, sustainable, measurable results squarely on the shoulders of the organizations in the independent sector. In his book Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, he issues a profit-blind challenge:

“I believe that if every charity held itself similarly accountable, the dollars invested in the social sector would skyrocket. I think that every organization, be it for-profit or not-for-profit, should decide what to measure and put those results at the bottom of their emails. Be it the number of meals served to the homeless, the number of students they’ve helped to get into college, or the number of people who’ve had cholesterol screenings, nothing focuses the mind quite like having to broadcast your results hundreds of times per day.”

In the Arena concurs, and despite the challenge presented by trying to measure quantitatively that which is qualitative, the organization is committed to rigorous and analytical thinking in order to produce the most transparent, informative and heuristic results possible.

Specifically, In the Arena has settled on the following three metrics to gauge our success:

  • The growth of the number of youth served by our programs: This is a relatively easy number to calculate, but an essential measure of the breadth of our programs’ impact.
  • The growth of our program’s effectiveness: Producing positive results at the youth level is In the Arena’s raison d’etre. We use entrance and exit surveys of program participants to chart behavior and attitude shifts; from each program in the field we require quarterly reports that collect feedback from Arena Athletes and their on-site supervisors, including the completion of a 100-point scale used to monitor the parameters and successful execution of each project; and we are committed to amassing anecdotal evidence from all levels of program participants in an effort to build a database of case studies on program effectiveness.
  • The growth of our organizational effectiveness: While there are many ways to measure organizational effectiveness, In the Arena believes most of them can be distilled into the one, simple calculation: the percentage of each donated dollar that goes directly to programming. As In the Arena scales, it will rigorously measure this statistic with the aim of allocating 92 cents of every dollar directly to our programs.
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