You are curious about impact management, as shown by your participation in this quiz, and you have probably started thinking about how to best integrate it within your organisation. You have prepared some exploratory tools: a notebook, a camera and magnifying glass are packed for your upcoming impact journey. However, you work for a small organisation, with financial and operational constraints, and we understand that impact may not be your priority.
An impact framework is not built in a day, but having it high upagenda and embedded in the culture of the organisation lays strong foundations and will make it less overwhelming to later incorporate aspects of impact management. It also shows your intentions both internally and externally and will attract people who share the same social 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 small steps and it will be manageable. There are plenty of resources available to get you started. Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you want us to point you in the right direction.
What expectations should you have from impact management practices? What degree of commitment are you able to make 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 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 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 first used 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 yet found the final destination. 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!
Measurement can appear an overwhelming task at first but how would you otherwise make sure that you're doing a good job? How would you identify weaknesses and improve? Profit-focused organisations track their financial performance for a reason Impact is the primary purpose of your social organisation, so unless you tracking these results, there is no oversight of your performance. Don’t forget however 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, set up indicators to measure your performance for 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.
2. Be strategic and do not spread yourself too thinly: start with data collection on one or two specific projects, focusing on a few key indicators.
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 rigorously extract your impact: the “before-after” approach (interviewing the same person over two different occasions) and the “target-control” approach (interviewingtwo 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.
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.
1. The social mission is the purpose that steers the organisation. It should be precise, complete, shared with the team and up-to-date. It is not necessarily the original mission statement or a slogan your organisation uses. A social mission should evolve with the activities of the organisation 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.
2. Define a logic model that credibly links actions to results: 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 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!
3. Define clear, specific and realistic outcomes. What short-term, end of programme and long-term effects do you wish to have on your target population?
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 effectiveinternal communication.
2. Identify someone in your staff that will act as impact leader and who will be being 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. Communicate your positive impact result to your team to celebrate it: your volunteers and employees are working hard to achieve it and this is a means to recognise their effort
2. Share your positive impact results with external stakeholders including commissioners and funders. Transparent dialogue will enhance their trust and engagement. 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.
3. 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.
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