Measuring your impact: where to start?

In our guest blog Sarah Handley from New Philanthropy Capital explains why it's important measure your impact and where to start, in advance of her talk at our Stakeholder event on 19 November 2015


Showing your impact is important for lots of reasons, and has plenty of benefits.

This week, I spoke to a small, local organisation working in the domestic violence sector who said collecting impact data from their service users has really motivated frontline staff. Because they now have evidence—rather than just anecdotes—of the difference they are making, they get recognition and are inspired to keep up the good work.This organisation hasn’t started from scratch; the staff have drawn on existing resources to help them on their impact journey.


Why do it?

Voluntary Action Lewisham’s Show your impact programme provides a brilliant opportunity for small and medium organisations in Lewisham to do the same and there are lots of good reasons to get involved. But first off here are just two reasons why you should measure impact at all:

  1. Improving your services
    We have a responsibility to our beneficiaries to understand whether or not we are delivering the best possible services to them—and if not, how we can make changes for the better. Often, we count how many people we’ve reached or how many sessions we’ve held—ie, our outputs. But that doesn’t tell us whether this work has genuinely helped to instigate change for the people who need it—our impact. If we don’t know how well we are doing, then how can we improve and adapt?
  2. Proving your impact
    In times of budget cuts and increased demand on charities, demonstrating that you are making a difference is ever more important, particularly to securing funding. Commissioners and funders are growing wise to the importance of impact measurement, and are increasingly asking for evidence of change.

Where to start

It can be tricky to know where to start and measuring intrinsic or less tangible things like wellbeing or confidence can feel challenging, but there are lots of resources to get to you going. My advice is draw on these, and not to re-invent the wheel. Measuring your impact doesn’t have to be rocket science, and you don’t need to start employing statisticians. You also don’t need to measure everything—this is about prioritising and being proportionate.

Most importantly, don’t struggle on your own. Voluntary Action’s Lewisham’s Show your impact programme is a great way get help and find out what is possible. Take time to plan, make the most all the resources out there, and you’ll be well on your way to understanding the difference you make.

Photo: Flickr, Andrea

Sarah Handley is a Senior Consultant at New Philanthropy Capital (NPC), a think-tank which also helps charities and funders to achieve their impact.

To find out more about Show your impact and the work of NPC reserve your place for our Stakeholder event and AGM on Thursday 19 November 2015