Every Charity Needs: To measure and communicate its social impact

Posted 20 Dec 2017 | Blog | Evaluation | Weston Charity Awards

Social impact is a charity’s bottom-line, its profit, and its entire raison d’étre. Being able to demonstrate and communicate its impact is paramount. Often, however, charities are under-resourced and stretched because they are working tirelessly to deliver for their service users, and just don’t have enough hours in the week to stand back, think, and reflect on what they’re delivering. 

We see this frequently through our projects on the Pilotlight Programme and we empathise completely. All charities need to measure and demonstrate the effectiveness of the work they do if they want key funders and stakeholders to engage. So taking that time out to think about and review how you measure social impact is essential. Here are my top tips, accumulated over my years of experience as a Pilotlight Project Manager, on what a charity needs to think about when looking to measure and communicate its social impact:

1. Don’t try to measure everything

The first few things you have to figure out and plan are both what to measure and how to measure it. The best tip I was given around this was: You don’t have to measure everything. Just identify what your key outcomes are, break them down further if necessary, and focus on these as a starter for ten. Take your vision statement as a guide in deciding outcomes as this will give you the ultimate goal of your charity.

2. Don’t underestimate the power of qualitative measurement

Case studies are powerful ways of measuring, understanding, and communicating what you do. Emotional stories about the change you’ve made to the life of a person or a community can be very meaningful for an external audience. Talking with clients, volunteers, and staff, is also a good way of better understanding what you do and where the impact really lies, and through these conversations you can get some great stories that can communicate more insightfully than a statistic ever can! 

3. Don’t decide your outcomes based on a funder

It can be a bit of a balancing act trying to figure out how to articulate what you do in line with what funders are looking for. The starting point however should always be with the charity and not the funder. Funders are coming round more and more to this viewpoint also, and will appreciate you being able to articulate where you fit. Often, what you do will fit somewhere in what the funder is trying to achieve. Ultimately, if a funder is asking for outcome measurements that are too far removed from your own, then the first question should be not, ‘How can we adapt our measurement processes to fit?’, but ‘Are they really the right source of funding for us?’

4. Don’t forget to communicate it effectively

This is where the balancing act comes in. Often charities will be delivering key work that is line with the key outcomes the funder wants to achieve, however they are not articulating it in a way that the funder understands, relates to, or recognises. It’s important to articulate what you are doing in the right language for the right funder – use key buzz words which will engage them and grab their attention. You need to be able to tell a story that the stakeholder understands and buys-in to, using their language.

If you put time into creating a coherent story that has power, you will reap the rewards. You’ll be able to do funding applications much more quickly and more concisely because you will know who you are and what you are achieving. If you need further help and coaching through this why not apply to the Weston Charity Awards for mentoring via the Pilotlight Programme?

Apply to the Weston Charity Awards here. Deadline 12th January.