You are an Impact Explorer (>10 employees)
Impact may seem as a non-priority when you are a small organisation with financial and operational constraints and we understand that. An impact framework is not built in a day, it’s effort on the long run but having it on your agenda and in the culture of the organisation lays the foundations of a healthy organisation and will make it less overwhelming the day you decide to tackle the more challenging aspects of impact management. It also shows your intentions both internally and externally and will attract people who share the same purpose as you, which can only benefit you in the long run. Start by strengthening your social mission, objectives and laying out your logical pathway to change. Take baby steps and it won’t be overwhelming. There are plenty of resources to start on your own. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you want us to share some resources.
First things first: why improving my impact management practices?
What expectations should you have from solid impact management practices? What degree of commitment do you aim to achieve and what resources are you willing to deploy for it? Being convinced that a better impact management framework will be fully beneficial to your organisation is obviously a first step in your impact journey.
1. You are a socially-driven organisation and your objective is to deliver the best possible service with available resources, in order to meet the need of your beneficiaries and make a difference. Impact measurement and management can be considered as a low priority – or worst, as a constraint imposed by your external parties. It is still often seen as a compulsory ‘tick box’ exercise. However, do not forget that the primary reason to define and measure your impact is not because you owe it to your funders, but because you owe it to your beneficiaries. Impact data should be first used as a management tool to improve your solution(s) to the social problem(s) you are tackling.
2. The impact journey is a long one and – let’s be clear - nobody has found the final destination yet. It takes a few years for an organisation to have a strong impact framework and to make the best of it to inform strategic decision-making. Be ambitious but realistic and go step by step!
Define your data collection approach
Collecting impact data will be one of your next big project. Measurement can appear overwhelming at first and tricky but how would you otherwise make sure that you're doing a good job? How would you identify weaknesses and improve? Have you seen a for profit organisation not tracking its finances? Exactly. Impact is the primary purpose of your social organisation, so not tracking these results is lacking a vision of your performance. Don’t forget however that collecting data is not an objective in itself. The data must be relevant. It may seem very simplistic but many organisations struggle identifying the data they need to collect.
1. Once you have defined the main outcomes of your project, set up indicators (or KPIs) to measure your performance for each outcome. At first, focus on a couple of key indicators per project.
2. Be strategic, not (eparpille): start with data collection on one or two specific projects, focusing on some key indicators.
3. When it deals with social impact, it can be challenging to measure the results of your action without overestimating it. You want to hear good results indeed, and your beneficiaries may hesitate to be critical. There are several approaches that will help you rigorously extract your impact: the before-after approach (interviewing the same person at two different moment) and the target-control approach (interviewing at the same time two groups of people: beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries with similar characteristics). Define the approach you wish to adopt to extract your impact, according to your specific context and resources.
4. Technology offers great opportunities to better monitor your social performance … as long as it only captures the data that is key to your organisation, and it does not become a constraint. Think about the best data systems to collect and manage your data. Do you need an integrated system that would capture both general data on your beneficiaries (case management) and impact data*? Do you prefer using Excel to store data, and only need a software to collect survey data? What is your staff and volunteers’ digital literacy?
See NPC’s publication: Choosing an electronic case management system for your organisation
5. When introducing new tools, ensure that all your teams involved embrace it: prepare, equip and support your teams to successfully adopt new practices.
Define a clear impact strategy
Gather together your stakeholders around a shared vision on your social mission and impact objectives.
1. The social mission is the cornerstone of your strategic path as it is crucial to strategically angle your activities and targets. You won't be able to know if you are reaching your impact goals if your social mission is not precise. Ensure that it clearly defines the social environmental/social issue you aim to solve, the targeted beneficiaries, your approach (services, products) to solve the problem and your intended outcomes.
2. Define a logic model that plausibly links actions to results: the Theory of Change is the most recognised tool used by the social sector to define the link between your activities, outputs, outcomes and impact. Developing a theory of change helps reveal insights about what is core and not core to your activities. Do not forget to involve your teams within this discussion: the conversation that will arise will be very beneficial to your organisation. The tool can also serve external communication to explain what you do and engage people.
If the Theory of Change concept is still as fluzzy for you as the glasses of your speccy friend after a rain, watch this short video!
3. Define clear, specific and realistic outcomes (To be developed)
Develop a culture of impact within your teams
Impact is the primary purpose of your organisation, it is what motivates your teams and your external partners and funders. But you will not be able to fully embed impact within your organisation if there is no shared understanding and vision about it.
1. Map all your stakeholders and define who should be involved in the definition of your impact strategy/data collection/reporting. And engage your teams!
2. Identify someone in your staff that will be the impact leader, implying: being proactive on the impact strategy, coordinate data collection processes, follow up on impact results and report to the rest of the team.
3. Do not forget to engage your Board of Trustees, that also have to consider impact results in their decision making.
Make the best use of your impact data
1. Communicate on your positive impact results to your teams to celebrate it: your volunteers and employees are working hard to achieve it, they need to be rewarded.
2. Communicate on your positive impact results to external stakeholders: for commissioners and funders, supporting you usually means making compromises. Celebrate your results with them! A transparent dialogue will enhance their trust and engagement. Embedding good impact practices and communicate on it will unlock potential to get new partnerships and attract capital, and ensure your organisation stands out from the crowd in a competitive bidding process.
3. Concentrate on how to improve your results: consistent and regular data collection will allow you to learn from your impact results, identify areas of improvement, take corrective action and constantly optimise your impact generation model. Engage your staff in these strategic thinking. Realise the benefit of constructive criticism. Evaluation, whether external or internal, may seem intimidating, but the final focus should be on improvement, not on results.
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