No time for impact measurement?

Caroline Neighbour, business development & marketing administrator at Gallery Partnership, writes about the benefits of measuring impact and outcomes.

Charities are facing increased pressure to align their method with their mission and with an unpredictable political climate and government funding cuts, along with the demand on services thrown into the equation, CEOs are juggling more than their fair share of pressures.

One pressure can be converted into an asset. The need to embrace digital solutions can prove to be a valuable advantage within charities, delivering operational gains, reductions in administration time, increased knowledge and an ability to engage with wider audiences in a variety of special ways.

Using a wide range of digital tools will deliver insights on how your charity can ‘prove’ its impact. It is now much easier to use outputs to evidence how you have delivered your outcomes and the positive value these represent to your beneficiaries.

Outputs can be mere statistics within charitable work. You will need to assess the journey taken to achieve your goals and the scope of activities that take place.

Ultimately, this granular information can tell your story and highlight your significance within society, leading to continuous funding and the long-term sustainability of your charity’s mission.

While nearly 80% of charities recognise the benefit of measuring impact to improve efficiency, a report by the FSI found that 48% of charities measured only a small proportion or nothing of their service. Paul Montgomery, Professor of Social Intervention uncovered that there are three main barriers that third sector organisations are facing to evaluate their work:

  • Lack of financial resource
  • Technical capability
  • Evaluation literacy

Technical capability and evaluation literacy ultimately affect the confidence of the leaders within such organisations, along with the natural concern that a cultural shift may need to be addressed for change to succeed. Thankfully, there are companies, like New Philanthropy Capital and Small Charities Coalition who provide consultative support to help maximise social impact within charities.

While technology is rapidly evolving and the vast array of impact measurement software options available may appear overwhelming, there are practicalities to be considered when choosing the “best fit” database for an organisation.

Is it customisable and flexible to your requirements?

Prescribed, “out of the box” workflows may seem the easiest to get started on quickly, but measurement points are unique for each organisation. Rigid, unadaptable software will only lead to wasted expenditure. Requirements undoubtedly will evolve over time and a more scalable system will allow you to deal with key metrics that may have gone undiscovered before.

Is there longevity and the capacity to grow along with your organisation?

For the majority, there will be multiple projects occurring at any one time, which link to the overall mission. As organisations expand and demand for services increase, so too should the software in which you have invested. Having to change and migrate data every few years will not only cause disruption but will stall progression and lead to disengagement.

Accessibility and ease of use

In a world of “cloud-based, readily-available” technology, the standard expectation is of a database that can be accessed anytime and anywhere across any device, presenting clear results. Not only is this required for remote working where data capture is essential, but it also allows multiple users to view, collaborate and edit. Users can refine, reassess and extract specific data, as necessary. Reduction in administration will not only save money, but staff will also be freed to focus on more critical matters.

Ongoing support/training

Unless you have specifically trained as a technical expert, there shouldn’t be the expectation that you are. A database should include adequate support from your partner and they should tailor their implementation to create confidence in the system’s utilisation and rapid adoption.

Is it secure?

With one in five charities suffering from a cyber-attack, data security concerns are at an all-time high. GDPR regulation breaches not only result in hefty fines but also personal data leaks cascade beyond this simple monetary value. Ensuring your databases are secure, resilient and hold the highest level of protection will not only provide peace of mind but could actually save your organisation!

Financial issues may seem to be the defining factor, preventing charities from progressing with impact measurement tools.  While such factors cannot be ignored, this issue should fall into the strategic planning of your organisation. Keeping your donors engaged, aware of activities, with clear evidence will build their trust and “buy in” to your ability to deliver your goals. Such investments should be considered in terms of overall financial return, essentially focusing on your long-term objectives – the ones that will bring real value to your service users.

For more information, head to www.acevo.org.uk/gallery-partnership

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash

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