The following is a guest post by Anne Kazimirski, Deputy Head of Measurement & Evaluation and co-author of NPC’s four pillar approach. To read the original article, click here.
In an increasingly competitive environment, it is paramount for any organisation that depends on attracting funding to measure the impact of their work. More importantly, being able to gauge the success of existing services can guide the use of resources and help improve effectiveness over time.
Ten years ago, impact measurement was rare and imprecise. Thankfully the past decade has seen a transformation in approaches that allow charities to measure the impact of what they do. We have seen a shift in attitudes, too: in 2012, our Making an impact research in the UK found that just over half of charities measure the impact of nearly all their activities.
However, measuring impact is not easy and many find it difficult to know where to start. Charities come to us wanting to know what to measure and how often, which methodology to use under what circumstances, and how much money and time to spend on the whole exercise. And so earlier this year we decided to share our approach so that everyone can begin on this journey.
Building an effective measurement framework depends on a strong foundation. It requires buy-in from senior staff and trustees, the investment of time and money, and a culture that is committed to learning and improving—only then can our four pillar approach be applied. While ours is not the only approach, we know through our experience that it works for a variety of sizes and types of charities and funders, and results in an efficient, understandable and useful end product.
Step one: Map your theory of change
A theory of change should be at the heart of your approach because it shows what you want to achieve and how you plan to achieve it, setting out the causal links between your activities and your end goal.
Step two: Prioritise what you measure
Your impact is likely to be diffuse, affecting different people in different ways. Prioritise the most important outcomes in your theory of change and focus on measuring those.
Step three: Choose your level of evidence
Choose an appropriate level of rigour of evidence that suits the needs of your stakeholders. This will depend on a combination of what is desired or needed and what is practical.
Step four: Select your sources and tools
You may be able to use existing data or tools, or you may need to develop your own. It is likely others will be measuring the same outcomes as you, so look at what already exists and assess its suitability.
Of course the technical process of measuring impact is not an end in itself: to see the benefits you need to use the findings to review and improve your practice. And alongside this, it is vital that every organisation communicates its impact to staff, trustees, and also external stakeholders, so that focus on results becomes a valuable part of thinking about the charity’s mission and in shaping how it is perceived, as well as influencing wider practice. Guidestar exchange is a great database, and a good place to start sharing impact findings.