In spite of financial and operational constraints, you are doing well: you are aware of the need for impact management and you have already taken some major first steps towards achieving it.
To attain the next level, you need now to bring consistency and regularity in your impact measurement across different projects, and to use your data as a strategic management tool.
It is time to start thinking about your own needs. Ensure that you are not merely reporting for the benefit of others. Although you will still need to report to external stakeholders, your impact indicators, tools and processes should primarily serve your impact strategy and help you inform decision-making. Focus on what is meaningful for you. Progress from impact measurement to impact management. If you have a thorough impact strategy and framework, your funders and partners will trust the results of your work and it is less likely that they will impose other indicators. Showing that you are in control of your impact will place you ahead of your peers and allow you to lead in negotiations with potential investors, commissioners and other stakeholders.
Have a look at the tips below - that are designed for all organisations with an “improver” level, some might be more relevant than others to you. Feel free to get in touch if you want us to point you in the right direction, or if you want to challenge us on this quiz!
The impact journey is an on-going process, and you should keep questioning yourself: Why am I measuring my impact? What are my expectations? What degree of commitment is my organisation able to make? What resources are we willing to deploy for it? Being convinced that a better impact management framework will be fully beneficial to your organisation is a first key step.
1. You are a socially-driven organisation and your objective is to deliver the best possible service with the 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 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 due to your funders, but because you owe it to your beneficiaries. Impact data should be used initially as a management tool to improve your solutions to the social problems you are tackling.
2. The impact journey is a long one and – let’s be clear – no one organisation has found the final destination yet. It takes a few years for an organisation to have a robust impact framework and to maximise its use so as to inform strategic decision-making. Be ambitious but also realistic and one step at a time!
1. Stop, take a step back and redefine your strategy: sometimes organisations get caught up in their daily operations, and find it hard to take the time to think about what really matters. Take the opportunity to gather your teams around strategic thinking and the redefinition of your impact strategy.
2. An impact strategy starts with the definition of a social mission: it is the purpose that steers your organisation. What do you get up in the morning for? What impact do you wish to create and how? You have probably already defined a social mission for your organisation. If so, ensure that it is precise, complete and up-to-date, e.g. still representative of what you do and especially what you aim to do in the future. A social mission can evolve over time and good practice is to review it every two years. Ensure that it clearly states the social/environmental issue you aim to solve, the targeted beneficiaries, your approach (services, products) to solve the problem and your intended outcomes.
3. Define a logic model that credibly links actions to results, or think about the need to refine the logic model that you’ve already done in the past. The Theory of Change is the most recognised tool used by the social sector to define the link between activities, outputs, outcomes and impact. Developing a theory of change helps reveal insights about what is core and non-core to your organisation. Do not forget to involve your team and even beneficiaries within this discussion: a collaborative approach helps understanding if everyone is on the same page. The tool can also serve an external communication purpose to explain what you do and to engage with people. If the Theory of Change concept is still as hazy for you as a hot Summer’s day , watch this short video!
4. Ensure that you have clear, specific and realistic outcomes for all your projects. What short-term, end of programme and long-term effects do you wish to have on your target population?
Don’t forget that collecting data is not an objective in itself. The data must be relevant. Many organisations struggle to identify the data they need to collect.
1. Once you have defined the main outcomes of your project, refine your indicators to measure your performance on each outcome. At first, focus on a couple of key indicators per project. Be careful about the choice and balance of indicators: outputs show the effort of the organisation, not the impact. But outcomes without outputs to give context are meaningless. For more information about "What to collect", have a look at this website.
2. Be strategic and do not spread yourself too thinly: impact measurement can be an overwhelming task if we do not limit ourselves at looking at a few key indicators, starting with the most strategic projects. Then progressively implement consistent measurement tools and processes within all your organisation.
3. When dealing with social impact, it can be challenging to measure the results of your action without overstating them. You want to see good results and your beneficiaries may not wish to challenge them. There are several approaches that will help you reliably track your impact: the “before-after” approach (interviewing the same person over two different occasions) and the “target-control” approach (interviewing two groups of people at the same time: 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. Also, think about all the other factors that may have an effect on your beneficiaries, and try to understand to what extent the change that you captured can be explained by your action.
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 does not overcomplicate things. Think about the most appropriate data system for your organisation. Do you need an integrated system that captures both general data on your beneficiaries (case management) and impact data? Or do you prefer using an Excel spreadsheet to store data, and only need software to collect survey data? What is your staff and volunteers’ digital literacy?
5. When introducing new tools, ensure that all your team involved embrace it: prepare, equip and support your team to successfully adopt new practices. And tell them the big picture so they understand why their individual effort is crucial.
Impact is what motivates your team and external partners. But you will not be able to fully embed impact within your organisation if there is no shared understanding and vision about it.
1. Create impact leadership. The head of the organisation should be on board with impact to ensure that it’s on everyone’s agenda and to aid effective internal communication.
2. Identify someone in your staff that will act as impact leader and who will be proactive on the impact strategy, coordinating data collection processes, following up on impact results and reporting to the rest of the team.
3. Map your stakeholders and define who should be involved in the definition of your impact strategy/data collection/reporting. Devote a session to this with your team!
4. Impact theory is not easy to understand and it can be hard to see it as a priority. Gather your team for a workshop to raise awareness about what impact is and why it is important.
5. Engage your Board of Trustees, who also have to understand and consider impact results in their decision making.
6. Budget for impact as you would budget for accounting costs. It helps you understand your performance as accounting does, so it should be central to the management costs.
1. You probably already communicate your positive impact results to your team, and you’re right: your volunteers and employees are working hard to achieve it and this is a means to recognise their effort. You also probably share your impact data with external stakeholders. Embedding good impact practices and communicating it will unlock the potential for new partnerships and attract capital, as well as ensure your organisation stands out from the crowd in a competitive funding environment.
2. Concentrate on how to improve: 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 this 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.
We'd love to hear from you! To discuss your specific results and the next steps you could take to improve your impact management practices, or to share with us your feedback on this quiz, please do not hesitate to contact Manon at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A solid methodology to measure your impact
The Good Analyst is a methodology for impact analysis and a set of guidelines for measuring and reporting on impact, developed by Investing for Good. It draws on a decade of our impact research to provide an end-to-end set of social impact practices for use by:
- Social-purpose organisations, including charities and social enterprises and NGOs.
- Providers of capital to the social sector, such as grantfunders, commissioners of social services, and foundations.
- Experts engaged with the sector, including policy makers and advisers, regulators, consultants to charities and donors, and academics and impact researchers.
A collaborative project to agree on shared fundamentals
The Impact Management Project (IMP) is a collaborative effort by over 700 organisations, from different disciplines and geographies, to agree on shared fundamentals for how we talk about, measure and manage impact – and therefore our goals and performance.
Investing for Good takes part in this initiative, recognising the need for a shared vision about impact, and the IMP's additionality in this process.
This website is relevant to anyone looking to measure and manage their effects on people and planet, positive and negative, regardless of their motivation. You will find some key questions, tools and case studies.
6 impact management training videos
The Impact Management Programme aims to build the capacity of charities and social enterprises to manage their impact. In the context of this programme, impact management training has been delivered to over 150 charities and social enterprises across England in 2017.
Investing for Good has been recognised as an approved provider for this programme, and is currently working with 3 organisations participating to this programme.
6 short videos of the training delivered by Impetus-PEF are accessible online.