Scale & Measuring Impact: A case study in size

Questions we often receive from supporters: What are your plans to scale? How many people do you reach? What is your impact in numbers?

Let us not forget for an instant that these are people we’re talking about. Real-life people like you and I.

Komera has educated 126 girls through our scholarship and graduate program since 2007. Our mission is to develop self-confident young women through programs in education, community development and sport- and we’re really proud of how we achieve that. The average family household in Rwanda has 10 people. When one girl in the family goes to school, life changes for 10 people. When 72 girls go to school, life changes for 720+ people. Komera’s community empowerment program reaches hundreds of girls in local schools, our soccer tournaments reach even more, and our Komera Parent & Guardian Cooperative adds to our impact of over 1,000 members in the community.

Komera Scholars at Fawe boarding school, Rwanda

Of course we want to reach as many people as possible. Of course we want to transform our entire community. We want to educate, support, train, empower, inspire. But when we talk about numbers, we have to think — at what cost? How will our resources look when spread across 500 students, instead of 72? Will girls who need extra counseling, mentoring, and attention, fall through the cracks? Our focus on depth is with intention and purpose.

It is $500 per year for tuition at a local boarding school in Rwanda. It would be simple to pay school fees for hundreds of girls, send them off, and pat ourselves on the back- we educated hundreds of girls! Education changed their life! Done.

As many small community-based organizations understand, there is no “silver bullet” solution. Education is incredibly important, and access to education and paying for school fees is disproportionally unequal for girls. Getting girls into school is one thing. Keeping girls in school to graduate and on to their next step, is another. Komera provides holistic support for young women that will give her the best chance of success. We provide quarterly leader summit camps, mentors at school, social workers to council, academic and personal materials needed for boarding school, sports programs, business opportunities for families. When given opportunities to grow, we have done so thoughtfully and slowly in ways that stay true to our mission.

For many nonprofit organizations, the choice to stay small is incredibly challenging and is a constant conversation in our office. As Founder and Executive Director, Margaret Butler recently said in and interview with Forbes,

“I’m not anti-scale. Done right, it can be transformative, but right now in the fundraising landscape it feels that scale equals good. The only good. It frustrates me to see phenomenal community-based organizations that are providing critical services to their communities being forced to scale for funding dollars.”

If your organization is doing incredible, authentic, meaningful work, we invite you to join us in changing the conversation. Let us not be swayed by pressure to scale. Let us choose to focus inward and continue providing life-changing programming, and be transparent and honest about our results. Evaluate and report on the impact of your work, and make the decision to scale (or not) based on what works for your community. Now pat yourself on the back, and get back to work.

Lauren LeBlanc joined Komera in 2015 as the Development & Communications Manager. She works out of Impact Hub Boston with the Executive Director and Founder of Komera, Margaret Butler. Lauren’s experience in the nonprofit sector includes work in nonprofit consulting, micro-finance, fair trade and social justice. She lives in Jamaica Plain with her partner and their dog, Jemma.

By Leora Mallach

Originally published at on December 6, 2016.