Results-Based Accountability (RBA)

Benchmarks for a Better Vermont, our sister organization is your “go-to” resource for managing for impact with Results-Based Accountability.

With the aid of Results-Based Accountability, Benchmarks for a Better Vermont helps nonprofits answer three transformational questions about their operations:

  • How much are we doing?
  • How well are we doing it?
  • and – most critically for all of us – Is anyone better off?

Results-Based Accountability is a planning and evaluation framework developed by Mark Friedman, field-tested in Vermont, and outlined in Mark’s classic book Trying Hard is Not Good Enough. Over the past 15 years, dozens of Vermont nonprofits and state agencies have found RBA a powerful, effective tool.

With a results-based approach, Benchmarks for a Better Vermont strengthens the nonprofit sector’s capacity to make significant, sustained improvements in the well-being of Vermont communities and individuals.


Vermont Passes Outcomes Bill – S.293 Signed by Governor June 12, 2014

Governor Peter Shumlin signs S.293, “The Outcomes Bill”, designed to increase accountability and improve decision making throughout Vermont state government was approved by the Vermont House of Representatives on April 30, 2014. Sponsored by Senator Diane Snelling, S.293, “An Act Relating to reporting on population-level outcomes and indicators and on program level performance measures”, the bill enables the  use of results based policy making in the Vermont Legislature, throughout state government and Vermont’s social sector.

Sue Zeller, Chief Performance Officer, attributes the right timing [of passing this legislation] to collaboration from three major sectors: the state’s executive branch, Legislature and nonprofit service community. She said past similar efforts did not have such diverse buy-in from the sectors that conceive and carry out so much of the state’s service work.


The Program

“It is a cultural transition from simply having a genuine interest in improvement … to truly infusing outcomes thinking into the way you manage your organization.”
– Mario Morino, Leap of Reason

Benchmarks for a Better Vermont offers a variety of opportunities for nonprofits to strengthen their internal capacity, integrate Results-Based Accountability (RBA) into their daily operations, and build a statewide culture of accountability.

  • RBA Training
    Since early 2012, hundreds of Vermonters have been introduced to RBA, whether at Common Good Vermont’s 2012 or 2013 Vermont Nonprofit Conference, sessions with Mark Friedman in Montpelier in September 2012 and February 2013, or in special workshops for philanthropists, legislators or nonprofit leaders. Stay tuned for additional training opportunities in the future.
  • Nonprofit Assessment
    With the support of the Vermont Community Foundation, BBVT is helping Vermont’s nonprofits assess their own strengths and areas for development. In spring 2012, over 50 nonprofits completed TCC Group’s evidenced-based Core Capacity Assessment Tool (CCAT). This spring, an additional 25 organizations will be invited to complete the CCAT at no cost. The aggregate report provides a snapshot of the sector as a whole, and can help us identify key areas for focused capacity-building.
  • Performance Institute
    In March 2012 through a competitive process we selected 17 Vermont nonprofit organizations working in the areas of health, education and economic opportunity, to join a 75-hour, 16-month intensive Performance Institute, scheduled to run from June 2012 to September 2013. Upon graduation of the Performance Institute in September, participating nonprofits will have fully-operational and mission-relevant performance measurement systems.
  • RBA Consulting
    We understand that often organizations seek support in their efforts to integrate RBA into their decision-making processes. BBVT is in the process of developing a list of certified RBA trainers and coaches available to facilitate community meetings, provide technical assistance, or introduce a group to RBA. Look for the live list by late April 2013.
  • The Vermont Accountability Compact
    In collaboration with many community partners, we are proud to announce the Vermont Accountability Compact. This historic document gives Vermonters the opportunity to make a personal commitment to advancing a culture of responsibility in our state.
  • Measuring What Matters
    With a view towards the collective impact of networked action, this blog maintained by CommonGood Vermont tracks the diverse efforts around the state to use data to keep us on track. Blog followers will also be able to read fresh research and view case studies on effective outcomes measurement.


Common Good Vermont provides online networking, resources and technical assistance in nonprofit capacity building;

Additional partners include:

  • Benchmarks for a Better Vermont (BBVT): operates with a unique consortium model which draws on the participation of key capacity-building organizations across the state.
  • The Nonprofit Management Program at the Marlboro College Graduate School serves as the lead organization in the BBVT consortium.
  • SerVermont: oversees AmeriCorps and VISTA throughout the state;
  • United Way of Chittenden County: dedicated champion of accountability and impact;
  • United Ways of Vermont and the United Ways of Addison, Lamoille and Windham Counties: pioneers of the “community impact” model in Vermont;
  • Vermont Community Foundation: Vermont’s largest foundation, major catalyst for nonprofit capacity-building and sector development.

This program was made possible by a $200,000 grant from the federal Corporation for National and Community Service, with matching financial support from each of the consortium partners.

We also would like to express our gratitude to our many key community partners:



The overall goal of Benchmarks for a Better Vermont is to strengthen the capacity of small to midsize NPOs in Vermont to make significant, sustained improvements in healthy futures, education and economic opportunities for all Vermonters.

The specific objectives of the program, as identified in our program proposal, are to:

  1. raise awareness throughout Vermont’s nonprofit sector about the value of establishing performance management systems,
  2. provide at least one hundred small to midsize nonprofit organizations with the tools and resources to implement basic performance management systems,
  3. build the capacity of at least 15 competitively-chosen small to midsize nonprofits ito develop and implement comprehensive performance management systems based on the Results-Based Accountability™ (RBA) framework,
  4. develop shared indicators with promise for statewide use in priority areas, and
  5. increase the ability of the state’s intermediary capacity-building organizations to leverage additional training and financial resources to assist small to midsize nonprofits to develop performance measurement systems and other management competencies.


The approach of BBVT is to use the trust and mutual regard established by the consortium partners serving small to midsize nonprofits to provide both basic and intensive training in performance measurement, and specifically in RBA. BBVT creates a networked response to nonprofit capacity building throughout Vermont that leverages and expands current efforts in systems of performance measurement. Six trusted intermediary capacity-building organizations collaborate on BBVT: Lead agency Marlboro College, Common Good Vermont, the Vermont Commission on National and Community Service, United Way of Chittenden County, United Ways of Vermont, and the Vermont Community Foundation.

To maximize the long-term sustainability of these efforts, we

  1. invest in creating a qualified and experienced team of trainers,
  2. make a sustained, multi-faceted commitment to our 17 selected Performance Institute agencies,
  3. use a variety of facilitation/teaching strategies shown to be effective at instituting organization-level change within small and midsize nonprofits, and
  4. employ a cohort model to foster lasting peer learning communities.

“What would we do differently if outcomes really mattered?”
– Mark Friedman, Trying Hard is Not Good Enough