How charities measuring their impact effectively becomes more and more important. Because impact is a measure of whether charities are implementing their strategy successfully and advancing their mission. Put simply, impact measurement can no longer be viewed as ‘nice-to-have’. Existing just to continue existing cannot be the future for charities.
 
Global charitable giving is down. In some countries, alongside a spate of negative headlines, public trust in charities has begun to waver. In others, trust levels are more robust but there are still questions over how exactly donations help the causes they support. Some of this concern is due to a lack of suitable impact information as an alternative to financial measures of effectiveness.
 
The report we recently launched address the current situation in worldwide through cases and summarize 6 steps for charities measure their impact.
 
Case Study
Street League is the UK’s leading sport for employment charity, using sport to move unemployed 16-24 year olds into work. Matt Stevenson-Dodd is Chief Executive. Here he shares some of his top tips for telling the impact story. 

We used to survey 100 people and if 60 got a job we would say “60% of all people we work with get jobs.” I had no confidence in this statement and we were using it to get funding. So we embarked on a three year change program to improve how we measure impact.

Rather than just getting a job, we asked: What barriers did they have? Did they have qualifications? Do they stay in job for six months? This is where we think a life has been changed.

In our annual reports we publicize our failures upfront. Then successes. We recognize that we do not get everything right. It was hard to get the board to agree to this. 

We set three golden rules. First: we will never overclaim. Second: all percentages come with real numbers. 80% could be 8 out of 10 or 8,000 out of 10,000. Third: all evidence is audited.

We link our internal database to our website and create a data visualization tool. Everyone can see our results in real time on our website. Our ethos is: if we present this data to you, you can decide if we are doing well.
 
Charities are now realizing the importance of measuring impact, but they face significant barriers. Below are six steps charities could take in consideration once doing measurement.
 
1.Don’t tackle too much at once
As well as budgetary or skills constraints, the work charities undertake to fulfill their mission is often complex and multifaceted. To give yourself the best chance of success, pick specific areas to target for impact measurement. Critically, make sure that the
areas you target are clearly linked to your overall mission, and have the buy-in of the staff who will gather the information. Otherwise, attempting to measure the impact of everything all at once is likely to be overwhelming and ultimately unsuccessful.
 
2.Conduct a skills/resource gap audit 
Charity leaders worldwide told us that a lack of skills, staff and infrastructure is a significant barrier to effective impact measurement. Before beginning your impact measurement initiative, or as part of an existing analysis program, conduct an honest assessment of where support may be needed. Leaders we spoke to gave examples of investing in technology, seeking third party support, hiring more staff and training existing staff as ways to improve impact measurement capabilities.
 
3.Agree parameters and stick to them
Our research has unearthed a need to specify what exactly you will seek to measure, across what period of time. A number of leaders told us that measuring symptoms of problems your mission seeks to solve, rather than causes, may be easier – but will have less meaning. Similarly, genuine outcomes that support your mission may take years to come to light. Will a funder understand that? Make sure all stakeholders are aware of the boundaries you are setting, and the potential consequences of doing so.
 
4.Verify your results before you share them
A common issue raised by charities around the world is making sense of the results impact measurement throws up. The need to ensure results are accurate and can be verified is critically important. Sharing results which can be picked apart or undermined could do more harm than good. Explore who is best placed within your teams to carry out the verification process. And consider whether randomized control trials could help you prove impact by comparing the outcomes of groups you have and have not supported.
 
5.Empower your team to act as advocates
A broad range of stakeholders will each need to hear your impact results in a different way. Your people will be essential to managing this successfully. Passionate management teams can engage with boards and ensure trustees understand the impact of your work in line with your strategy. Likewise, encouraging staff to be part of the impact measurement process will create an army of advocates who feel empowered to engage with donors and benefactors.
 
6.Don’t be afraid to tell your story your way
Different audiences may require different mediums to get the story to them, but the fundamental building blocks should remain the same. When thinking about these components, a key factor which united the charity leaders we spoke to was that no organization can get everything right all the time. In fact, suggesting you can do this could be dangerous. So don’t shy away from pointing out where your impact has not been as significant as you had hoped. Doing so will not only demonstrate transparency and humility. It will provide useful areas to consider prioritizing for future decision-making.
 
Our report is based on the interview of more than 30 charities leaders worldwide. 


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