Measuring your impact

Measuring your impact is more complex than counting the income that you raise, or the services you deliver, but it is possible in even the smallest voluntary organisation.

There are many methods of collecting information to measure a voluntary organisation’s impact depending on their work, budget and whether they need numbers or stories. Popular methods for measuring impact include questionnaires, interviews, focus groups or evaluation forms. You can also look at existing data you haven’t collected yourself, such as that held by the government, or use more creative methods like video, pictures or diaries. Finally, don’t forget the informal things that you or your volunteers observe in your work.

The process of collecting this data is called monitoring. The process of drawing conclusions from the evidence you have and making judgements about it is called evaluation.

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Figure 2 Evidence to show it works.

You don’t need to be a researcher to monitor and evaluate your impact. Sometimes complicated or long-term impacts can feel hard to measure, or you might feel that you cannot tell if an impact was definitely a result of your work. But you don’t have to look for scientific proof of your impact: your responsibility is just to look for the best possible evidence you can find with your available time and money. There are many resources available within the voluntary sector to guide you on this, for example from NCVO Charities Evaluation Services [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] or from Evaluation Support Scotland.

In this video the Chief Executive of Evaluation Support Scotland covers some of the concerns that voluntary organisations raise around monitoring and evaluation of their impact in a light-hearted and amusing way:

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But now for something completely different.

Gene was glum. Her funds were tight. She felt she could do nothing right. Can’t prove her impact show success. A last resort – phone ESS. Directly I burst through the door, sprinkling post-its on the floor. Gene was filled with fear and dread, as I grabbed a flip-chart pen and said ‘Let’s do it! Let’s do it! Common, lets evaluate, reflecting, perfecting. Your evidence would then be great. Don’t wrangle, I’ll disentangle. I’ll really get you going with my weaver’s triangle. Let’s do it! Let’s evaluate.’

But Gene said – ‘I can’t do it, I can’t do it! Measure just makes me cry. It’s boring, I’m snoring, I do not even want to try. My funder just want numbers and evaluation might just show up all my blunders. I can’t do it, I can’t evaluate!’

So I said – ‘Let’s do it, let’s do it! I don’t just mean a questionnaire. Creative, innovative, so many different tools out there. So tap in, no flapping, I’ll thrill you with before and after body-mapping. Let’s do it! Let’s evaluate!’

But Gene said – ‘I can’t do it, I can’t do it! Evaluating is just a game. Your words are just absurd – objective, output, outcome, aim? You’re losers, confusers, and I really don’t want feedback from my service users. I can’t do it. I can’t evaluate!’

But I said – ‘Let’s do it, let’s do it. Evaluation must be done. The fact is – it’s good practice. Honestly, it will be fun. Not what-twoddle, a doddle, I’ll blow your mind when I whip out my logic model. Let’s do it. Let’s evaluate!’

‘I can’t do it, I can’t do it! I have cupboards full of useless stats that I’ve gathered, hap-hazard, for countless council bureaucrats. I’m luke-warm. I won’t conform, I pulled a muscle filling in that lottery form. I can’t do it. I can’t evaluate!’

‘Let’s do it, let’s do it! You want to show you’ve made the grade. Your task is to ask what difference you have really made. Let’s plan, it’s no scam. You know that all the ladies call me Outcome-man! Let’s do it, let’s do it! Let’s evaluate.’

‘I can’t do it, I can’t do it! I don’t have the skills or the support. I’ve concluded, it’s stupid since funders won’t read my report. They ignore me, or bore me. Why can’t bloody ESS just do it for me? I can’t do it! I can’t evaluate.’

So I said – ‘Let’s do it, let’s do it! I promise that you won’t be scared. I’m yearning for learning. Do you like your outcomes soft or hard? Dogmatic, fanatic. Measuring my impact makes me feel ecstatic. Let’s do it. Let’s evaluate!’

One more time – ‘Let’s do it, let’s do it! Policy makers want it now. Let’s mention prevention, you could show them why and how. Solution, contribution. Your evidence could really start a revolution. Let’s do it. Let’s evaluate!’

Thank you very much!

End transcript
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Activity 5

Timing: Allow about 20 minutes
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Planning your impact

Communicating your impact