How Can Your Charity Demonstrate Its Impact?
Over the past few years the terms ‘outcomes’ and ‘impact’ have been heard increasingly across the charity sector and being able to demonstrate them is now vital. Funders, supporters, volunteers, trustees, and a numerous other stakeholders are now, more than ever, interested in the impact your charity has.
Not just what you do but what changes you make as an organisation. So, how do charities demonstrate their impact and why is it important?
At the FSI we regularly train in how to ‘Demonstrate your Impact’ and I am always amazed at the range of reasons why people want to develop in this area. A lot want to develop better relationships with funders, many want to check their programmes are working and are as effective as possible, and others want to engage volunteers, trustees or staff in a more meaningful way. Developing and using an impact measurement framework can help in all of these areas.
For whatever the reason you are looking to measure and demonstrate your impact, here are some top tips to get you started:
- Get definition savvy
If you’re not already familiar with the different terms it’s important to know what each of them is referring to so that you know exactly what each you need to measure for each.
- Outputs – The amount of something that you produce as a result of your activities
- Outcomes – The changes (positive or negative) that occur as a result of your work, which is experienced by your stakeholders.
- Impact – The broader change that occurs as a result of your work. Can also be used as an umbrella term to refer to both outcomes and impact.
- Develop an impact measurement framework
There are many different models you can choose from and it is important to find one which works for your organisation. At the FSI we use Logic Models but you can also implement a Theory of Change or the Charities Evaluation Service (CES) Planning Triangle.
Importantly, whatever option you choose, you should describe your activities, inputs, outputs and outcomes (and how you measure these too).
- Undertake an audit of your current monitoring and evaluation systems
With your framework in place you should know what your outcomes are but are you collecting the right data to prove them? Are your ‘outcome indicators’ robust?
Often this will not involve redesigning your whole system but simply tweaking what you already do by, for example, inputting a few extra questions to the evaluation forms you use or not just collecting outputs and quality data but outcomes too.
- Focus on outcomes
It has been shown a lot of charities focus on outputs, however, it is a much more engaging story to talk about outcomes and what changed as a result of your interaction with your beneficiaries. Instead of saying we trained X people in the last year, tell your stakeholders how you trained X people in the last year and Y% of them reported an increase in their confidence.
Many funders may ask for information on the impact of your project, this definition is also looking at the change which occurs as a result of your work but it is a larger change and can be over a longer time period. Though this can be a compelling story to tell, it can also be a very tricky one because it may often be hard to prove. Again, focus on outcomes and try to link these to a wider impact.
- Collect quantitative and qualitative data
This will help you tell a more compelling story. Use statistics and quotes to appeal to both the head and heart. Using quotes will help you demonstrate your outcomes using your beneficiary’s direct words which can be very powerful.
- Involve beneficiaries and staff / volunteers in the process
Ensure that the people supplying the data and those who are recording it are happy with how the system works. This will ensure that measuring impact is embedded in the organisation.
- Consider your audience
Who are you trying to demonstrate your impact to? This will affect the messages you use and the communication method. Try to be creative with your communication.
How many people currently read your annual report? If experience is anything to go by then the numbers won’t be huge. Try to show your outcomes in other places – on your website, in impact reports and in other communications. There are so many ways you already communicate with stakeholders so don’t forget to include these messages too.