Impact measurement is a huge topic which can easily get quite overwhelming if you’re not careful. The bad news is that there’s no simple solution… But don’t worry, because the great news is that there are plenty of small ways to get started and still find some real value, and we’re here to help you take those first steps!
Objectives – what are you trying to achieve?
Start with the objectives for your projects. This is such a vital stage that is so often over-looked. How can you tell whether your work has been successful or not if you don’t know what you were trying to achieve?! We recommend coming up with at least two objectives for each project– one focused on the social or environmental impact you wish to have, and one focused on the business impact you are looking for.
Here are some examples of focus areas for your objectives to get you started:
- Brand awareness – more customers knowing about your business
- HR benefits – improving your ability to hire, retain, motivate, and develop employees
- Operations – your business running more efficiently, including waste reduction
- Reputation or stakeholder relations – improving your reputation with your customer base and therefore standing out against competition
- Supply chain – improving efficiency within your supply chain
Your employee volunteers
- Behaviour – encouraging employees to change a behaviour, for example recycling more, volunteering in their own time, or becoming a brand ambassador for your company or for a charity partner
- Personal impact – supporting personal change in an employee, for example feeling prouder of their company, improving their self-confidence, or becoming more motivated at work
- Skills – developing employees’ skills.
- Ecology or direct environmental impact – a direct improvement as a result of your work, for example planting trees, or cleaning up a beach
- Human behaviour – on-going impacts because of your behaviour as a company, for example recycling, turning off lights, or printing double-sided
Charities, social enterprises, or community organisations
- Capacity building – helping a charity to become more efficient and self-sustaining, through skilled volunteering or donations
- Leverage – helping a charity by supporting them to gain more exposure, raise awareness of a cause, lobby, or access other support
Beneficiaries of your community partners
- Behaviour or attitude change – changing the way beneficiaries of a charity behave, for example reducing anti-social behaviour, or working harder at school
- Quality of life – improving the quality of life of beneficiaries of a charity, for example improving their confidence, improving their ability to integrate with their community, or improving their health
- Skills and personal development – improving the skills and development of the beneficiaries of a charity, for example tutoring them to help them gain a qualification, helping them to improve their literacy levels, or mentoring them in preparation for a job interview
Inputs – how much are you investing?
Next, ensure you are accurately tracking your inputs so you know exactly what you’ve invested in your activities. If you don’t know these figures, then there’s no way to work out a Return on Investment (ROI). It’s also a nice way to get some headline stats to promote your work. Inputs can include donations of money, donations of items, employees that have volunteered, hours volunteered, the value of that time, money raised through fundraising activities, overheads of staff time or external software used, etc.
Outputs – what activities are you doing?
The next step is to record the activities you are doing to achieve your objectives. These are the things that you actually do during a project. This could include holding workshops, providing mentoring sessions, planting trees, incorporating social enterprises into your supply chain, running campaigns, donating money – anything that is measurable. There are likely to be multiple outputs for each objective. Try and come up with some target numbers and keep track of progress as you go along, so you have time to adjust your efforts before the end of the project if necessary.
I think it’s realistic for everyone to get at least this far – no matter what stage you’re at on your journey to doing good. Even if you stop here, that’s a great start and gives you some very useful information, as well as a great baseline to keep improving in the future.
Outcomes and impacts – did you achieve your objectives?
To take things to the next level, you need to start thinking about outcomes and impacts. These are the changes that happen as a result of the outputs of your projects, and help you ascertain if you achieved your stated objectives.
Outcomes occur immediately after the delivery and are seen as the direct changes that your activity (the outputs) have had. Impacts are the wider and longer-term effects of a project that can go beyond the direct beneficiaries of your project. These are harder to track and measure. For example, if an outcome of your project was improved literacy skills of a group of students, this could lead to those students going on to get jobs that they wouldn’t have been able to access otherwise and, therefore, a reduction in the reliance of state benefits.
These can be measured and reported on throughout your project, based on evidence that you have gathered (e.g. from feedback, surveys, follow up work, etc.). At the start of a project you can identify the indicators you will use to evaluate your outcomes and impacts, although you should always leave room to capture unexpected outcomes (sometimes these can be negative as well a positive).
It’s really useful to have some supporting evidence to back up these claims. A good place to start with this are surveys to gather feedback from employee volunteers, charity partners, and the beneficiaries of those charities that benefited from your projects.
Here are some ideas of things that might be useful to ask to help you prove your impact:
For employee volunteers
- General professional skills – has volunteering helped them to improve their skills around team-working, communication, negotiating, or problem solving?
- Management skills – has volunteering helped them to develop their skills around leadership, strategy and planning, or line management?
- Personal development – has volunteering helped them to improve their self-confidence, sense of well-being, or empathy for other people?
- Morale – has volunteering helped them to improve their job satisfaction, commitment to the company, or motivation?
For charity partners
- Did they achieve their objectives for this project?
- Did your employee volunteers contribute towards achieving those objectibes?
- Did your employee volunteers help outside of those objectives as well?
- Would they be keen to work with you again?
It’s best to work with your charity partners to work out what questions you would like to ask here, then they will be able to reach out on your behalf to ensure that you are compliant with data protection regulation. They also have existing relationship, so it will be much more likely that they will respond.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully it will help a few of you to take those first steps on the road to impact measurement. Even doing a small amount of this is important and will be really helpful for you, your company, and your charity partners. Don’t feel disheartened if you’re not ready to tackle the whole lot yet – there’s plenty of time and every little helps!
If you would like to hear about how thirdbridge’s impact reporting software can help to make this process much easier, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.