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Last week I wrote about football and the value of punting. This week, I’m moving to baseball and considering another question: How can we determine what the most useful data is for evaluating performance?

Baseball has become a mecca for the development of advanced metrics. New measures and fancy acronyms appear constantly. For example, WAR is now good. Wins Above Replacement, that is. The Oakland A’s “Moneyball” strategy, already popularized in a book and movie, is essentially a player evaluation system that uses these advanced metrics in favor of traditional ones.

This year, the battle between old and new rages stronger than ever. As you’ve no doubt heard, Miguel Cabrera just won the MVP award, mainly because he captured the Triple Crown – the holy trinity of traditional hitting statistics. But are these stats the most useful to judge his performance? The new metrics suggest that the award should have gone to someone else. The traditional stats don’t take into account other aspects of Cabrera’s performance, and don’t necessarily provide a complete picture of his value.

How does this relate to the nonprofits? Let’s say an organization uses volunteers to deliver services. It likely tracks the total number of volunteers, and may even use that to define success. This number does demonstrate overall support, but does not speak to the quality of services volunteers provide. In fact, more volunteers may actually decrease the organization’s ability to increase impact, as volunteers require resources, training and oversight that an organization may struggle to provide. Next time, I’ll elaborate on how such an organization might capture data around volunteer output and efficiency, and use it to inform how it structures and evaluates its programs.

Stay tuned.

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