20 Jan 7 steps for measuring your impact
You might be one of those people that comes up with lots of barriers about why you can’t do impact measurement and management (IMM).
Maybe you say things like:
- It’s too time consuming
- It’s too complicated
- We don’t have the resources internally to do this
- It’s too confusing – there are lots of different methodologies and we don’t know which to use
- We don’t have to report on outcomes to our funders/commissioners/board etc. so what’s the point in doing this?
- We already collect lots of data why do we need to collect more?
But let’s forget all these excuses, and get down to it.
The reason you set up a social enterprise or ethical business was so you could make a positive impact on people or the planet – so why would you not want to know how well you are doing?
You would – so here’s my 7 steps for measuring your impact:
1 – Be clear about what you want to measure
There are so many things you could measure, for lots of different stakeholders, which means it’s really important to know what you want to measure so you don’t end up with a system that is too complex to actually be used.
First up, identify the ultimate goal you are trying to achieve. What problem are you solving and what does the world looks like when you’ve solved that problem? Easy ‘eh?
2 – Identify what changes
Now you’ve defined your ultimate goal, what are the key changes (outcomes) that need to happen to achieve your goal?
If you’re new to impact measurement focus on two key stakeholder groups, and identify the two most important outcomes that happen to them as a result of your work.
This way you’ll only be measuring a maximum of four things to keep it simple. Involve your stakeholder by asking them what outcomes matter most to them.
3 – Evidence the change
Now you’ve identified the outcomes you want to measure, the next step is to work out how you’ll know these changes have happened.
For example, for increased resilience you might get people to self-report or score changes in this; for training it will be when they’ve completed the training; for health improvements you might record how often they visit their GP before and after; and for things like reducing plastic waste you could measure how much is recycled and how much goes to landfill.
The National Lottery Community Fund, along with Social Value UK, shared a framework and template with absolutely tonnes of ways to measure outcomes – and it’s free to access and ideal for smaller social enterprises and ethical businesses to do their own impact measurement. Check it out here: https://www.tnlcommunityfund.org.uk/funding/funding-guidance/managing-your-funding/data-and-evidence
4 –How will you collect the data?
We’re still in the planning stage here, and, as with all good things, the better the planning the better the results!
How will you collect the information – will you use surveys, focus groups, case studies, interactive methods, games, or videos etc?
How often will you need to collect the data?
Also, think about what basic information you want to collect (if you don’t already) such as health conditions, age, employment status so you can see if these affect what outcomes are achieved.
5 – Get collecting
Once everything is prepared you can finally get on and collect the data.
This is where things tend to go wrong, as people don’t understand why they need to do this – so make sure you’ve explained to staff and volunteers why you need to know the impact you’re having.
Then collate the data somewhere – initially this could be on a simple spreadsheet.
6 – What does it all mean?
The analysis stage is my favourite – as you get to see what the data is telling you.
Which outcomes have you successfully achieved?
Which outcomes haven’t been achieved?
Do certain stakeholder characteristics link to different success rates for outcomes?
If they do, do you need to change how you deliver your activities to remove barriers/address specific issues so you can improve the level of outcomes in future?
Based on the data, how well are you achieving your ultimate goal?
7 – Managing your impact
At the beginning of the article you may recall it mentioned impact measurement and management (IMM). Well you’ve just completed the impact measurement phase, but the best organisations take it one step further and manage their impact by looking at how they can continually improve and maximise their impact – by increasing positive outcomes and minimising negative outcomes.
At this stage, you’ll also want to look at whether you need to change what you are measuring or how you are measuring it.
And that’s it! The best thing you can do is get started – with measuring your impact it’s better to do something rather than nothing, and then improve it as you go along.
There are a set of agreed principles around impact measurement and management, covering stakeholder involvement, not over-claiming and more – check out SVUK’s website www.socialvalueuk.org for more information.
If you’re new to impact measurement, and unsure of some of the terms used check out this Social Value Dictionary https://makeanimpactcic.co.uk/news/social-value-dictionary/
Other great resources to take a look at are:
Big Society Capital Outcomes Matrix – To help identify outcomes and possible indicators (ways to measure the outcome has been achieved) https://www.goodfinance.org.uk/impact-matrix
Inspiring Impact – lots of resources and information around impact measurement https://www.inspiringimpact.org/
About Heidi and Make an Impact CIC
Make an Impact’s vision is a world where all businesses are social enterprises that positively impact on people and the planet.
We support social enterprises to grow, become sustainable, and to measure and report their social impact better. This is delivered through mentoring, training and consultancy.
Heidi Fisher, the founder of Make an Impact, specialises in social enterprise and social impact, having supported over 2,100 social enterprises from start-ups through to those with over £1bn of income.
Heidi is multi-award winning, having received an MBE in the New Year’s Honours 2020 for Services to Innovation in Social Enterprise and to Impact Measurement.
She was listed on WISE100 (2017) as one of the 100 most inspiring and influential women in social enterprise, and Make an Impact is one of the top 100 social enterprises in the UK (SE100 Index, 2019).