Senior Corps Senior Corps Corporation for National and Community Service
Research: Programming for Impact

What is "Programming for Impact?"

Programming for Impact is an outcome based approach and a framework that was implemented by the Senior Corps in 1996 to allow its programs to effectively demonstrate how they:

  • Deliver benefits and results to the community
  • Focus energies and resources on meeting high priority local needs
  • Gauge and measure how the activities of the volunteers get results in communities – not only to tell the story anecdotally or from the point of view of how the senior volunteer benefits – but how a larger issue in the community was addressed through their service.
  • Raise the importance of seniors as valuable community resources that justifies investment from public and private sectors.

Programming for Impact is a means to put the service of Senior Corps volunteers in a broader context because it lays out five interrelated elements:

  • Community need: What needs attention
  • Service activities: What the volunteers will do to meet the need
  • Inputs: Level of effort and investment of volunteers and other resources
  • Accomplishments: Measurable and shorter term gains attributable to the volunteers
  • Impact: Measurable and longer term changes in the community

Programming for Impact is an important evolution for the Senior Corps:

The Corporation is actively positioning of all its programs with an eye toward enhancing efficiency, increasing opportunities, and making all programs more outcome-oriented. With Chairman Porter’s suggestions, guidance and support, the Corporation agrees that the value of programs should be measured by accomplishments and not merely by inputs.

The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 is a critical driver for the Senior Corps in changing the way we do business. We now focus on outcomes. We will rely on Programming for Impact to meet our GPRA goals. The indicators that were selected for each of the three Senior Corps programs are aligned with Programming for Impact approach. The systems and tools that we have put in place also flow from a Programming for Impact framework so that all of the disparate elements can come together for a national snapshot of Senior Corps and outcomes.

Where is the Corporation in its implementation of Programming for Impact?

Programming for Impact is being carefully and thoughtfully implemented in stages.

  • In 1996 Project Directors from all 1,200-plus Senior Corps projects and all field staff received training in Programming for Impact concepts.
  • In 1996-1997, each Corporation State Office was asked to establish a minimum of three test sites — one in each program — to apply impact principles to areas of service.
  • Accomplishments from the Programming for Impact 300 test sites provided much of the information collected through a "Best of the State" reporting process that ended in December 1997.
  • State Impact Implementation Plan were developed collaboratively with the Corporation, Senior Corps projects and local stakeholders to determine their implementation strategies, tasks and timelines.
  • Senior Corps tools were modified to reflect Programming for Impact: the grant application that will be used as of July 1, 1998 and the Project Progress Report that projects use for reporting request Impact information and contain the standardized GPRA indicators that Senior Corps will use for its national data collection.
  • In 1997, each Corporation State Office convened a "State Impact Training" for project directors and sponsors in applying impact concepts to various community needs.
  • In 1998, Corporation State Offices are actively convening State Impact Training opportunities that focus primarily on implementation issues.
  • Senior Corps headquarters is field testing National Accomplishment surveys that suggest standard indicators for each of the Senior Corps programs by service area – with the intent to utilize the surveys nationally in FY ’99.

Lessons Learned from Programming for Impact

Programming for Impact is an effective vehicle to demonstrate the value of Senior Corps programs to national and community leaders.

It will be increasingly possible to measure and demonstrate the unquestionable value, cost effectiveness of Senor Corps programs. The ability to prove outcomes and impact — not solely in terms of hours served, but by the measurable changes in communities, will meet Congressional demands for hard evidence that Senior Corps programs are cost-effective investments of public resources.

Senior Corps projects will increasingly have a means to substantiate their merit as in the community, including to local United Ways, foundations, corporations, and other potential supporters. United Ways nationwide are restructuring their funding systems to be outcome-based (rather than agency-based). Programming for Impact aligns Senior Corps projects with these predominant and emerging systems.

Several local Senior Corps projects received funding based on Programming for Impact statements in grant applications.

Programming for Impact will create the types of volunteer opportunities to attract the older persons of today and tomorrow.

The growing senior population is perhaps this nation’s greatest under-tapped resource and the Senior Corps is determined to attract older persons from all walks of life, backgrounds and experience. The "younger" seniors, retired professionals, and males often demand outcome-oriented placements. With a wealth of choice and opportunities, they are often drawn to volunteer placements that utilize their talents and skills. Programming for Impact delivers volunteer opportunities to meet this demand and priority.

Programming for Impact is an effective management tool to streamline the operations and maximize human resources of Senior Corps projects.

Local projects are beginning to report that careful and deliberate choices must be made about placing volunteers or they cannot achieve the needed outcomes or impact. For example, some projects report that "critical mass" — placing teams of volunteers in one location rather than individually, is important programmatically and administratively, as it requires too much scarce project staff time to support a large number of single placements.

Please send questions or comments to: [email protected].