Many can testify that Impact Reporting has seen an increasing demand from both institutional donors and everyday givers. However, our partner charities can find it difficult to know where to start – small teams are already stretched to maximise value for money and service delivery, leaving little space to articulate reporting and evaluation. At Maanch, we attended an NPC event “Reporting and reviewing impact: what good looks like”, and here were some of our key takeaways.
Impact Reporting: What is even the point?
From a non-profit perspective centralised impact reports can often be seen as a waste of time as donors and grant makers are likely to ask for slightly different data sets, specific grant submissions or user testimonies which ultimately end up not fitting the mark for one single report and creates additional work for all teams involved. Beyond that, many argue that their organisations cannot afford to be candid, especially small structures that are less resilient to reputation damage. The NPC speakers had interesting counterpoints to both these arguments.
To address the latter, it can be argued that the power of reflection and honesty have been proven to add credibility and win over trust from donors. Acknowledging that a single organisation cannot solve all of the world’s big issues can lead to a more collaborative and inclusive culture. The report can effectively create a precedent and tool for positive learning, and brings people along the journey of discovery and development charities often have to embark on.
The core purpose of having a single, central impact report is cultural. Indeed, the cultural shift an organisation has to undertake when writing an impact report trickles down to the way the team conducts operations, the way charity users experience the services and builds long-term clarity and accountability in the processes. As part of the discussion, Alzheimer Society, who published their first Impact-focused report in 2021, confirmed that it was that cultural shift over the year of work that enabled the organisation to ask uncomfortable questions and really grow from the outcomes. Ultimately, they found this journey incredibly rewarding and hope to build on these findings in the coming years.
Impact Reporting: What are the key components?
Now that we’ve talked about the wider benefits of an impact report, how should you get started? The webinar went over a couple of key components. The first was the impact reporting cycle going from ‘Plan’ to ‘Do’ to ‘Assess’ to ‘Review’ and feeding the reviews into the next planning cycles.
There are a few key questions that can help in taking the first step:
- “What is the need?” – explaining and understanding the problem that your organisation is trying to address.
- “What activities are you undertaking to address this problem?” – What is the breakdown of activities, and how are those activities helping the end user?
- “What evidence is there to prove you are effective?” – Whose voices are being heard? Are you taking into account every stakeholder?
These questions can be answered with the help of what NPC has coined five types of data:
- user data : “Is your service effective at reaching the intended target group?”
- engagement data: “How effective is your service at continuing to engage your target service users?”
- feedback data: “What do people think about the service?”
- outcomes data: “How have people been influenced or helped by your service in the short-term?”
- impact data: “Have the outcomes achieved (above) helped people to change their lives for the better?”
The final step is turning this collected data into learning and action: finding a system to organise data into information and knowledge. NPC has kindly shared resources that can help you make sense of some of this data: “Data with destiny” and “How to use your evaluation insights to improve your work (inspiringimpact.org)”. Another guest speaker from the Hillingdon’s Women Center (HWC) also had valuable tips around getting started. This micro organisation highlighted that there is no need to have expensive tools as long as the data collection is systematic and sits within a system that the whole team understands. This is a trial and error process, which the team needs to work collaboratively on as they will often have expertise in specific areas. Beyond the data collection, being as clear as possible about who you are and what you do, with simple and authentic language will be key.
Finally, the speakers agreed that effective communication of the outcomes of the report, circulating and collecting feedback both from end users of the charity service, from donors and as an internal team facilitation tool would be key in anchoring the findings in the charity’s long-term progression.
Impact Reporting: How can we help?
We hope this will be helpful in getting you started on your reporting journeys. The Maanch Philanthropy Platform aims to facilitate project data aggregation and translates them into impact insights across the UN SDGs. We also have tools that print instant project reports, help with SDG definition through our proprietary algorithm. Beyond our tech, we also offer bespoke advisory to help you understand how to use the data you’ve collected in the most impact effective way. Feel free to reach out to email@example.com for any enquiries!