Clearly demonstrating your impact is the best way to tell a compelling story that engages funders and donors alike – as these 3 excellent examples show
By Alex Hayes
Over the past few years at The Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI), we have been spending more and more time discussing and working on impact measurement; our members and consultancy clients are increasingly interested in this field. When we ask them why this is, alongside checking their performance and ensuring programmes are successful, charities often say it is because they want to develop better relationships with their funders, or bring new ones on board.
A 2013 report from NPC, Funding Impact, highlighted that unsurprisingly, a large proportion of funders thought that measuring impact makes charities more effective and that evidence of impact was important in their decision to award funding. I expect even more would be considering this now.
A funder recently told me that when looking at applications they are really keen to see two things: First, proof there is a need for what the charity is doing and secondly, details showing why their intended solution will work.
Demonstrating your impact is the best way of telling your story as an organisation and this is a great way to engage with donors – from people who give a few pounds a month through to trusts giving six-figure sums. Organisations need to move beyond using outputs when discussing the change they make.
Below are three brilliant examples of how charities have used impact reporting for fundraising purposes.
Maundy Relief and the FSI
Maundy Relief is based in Accrington, Lancashire and is an integral part of the local community, providing an immediate response to poverty and need. It provides a range of services including a hot lunch and food bank, advice, counselling and a nurse service.
The charity was in discussions with a funder over a large bid and was asked to produce an impact report. We worked with them over a number of months to undertake an impact assessment and produce a report. Like many small organisations, Maundy undertakes a range of services which can make measuring and demonstrating its impact more difficult.
We had a few principles in mind, which we always use at the FSI, when completing writing an impact report:
- We knew it was important to focus on outcomes and really consider the audience for the report
- We needed to understand what these outcomes were, and then plan how to collect appropriate data
- We knew it would be necessary to include both qualitative and quantitative data – an engaging impact report should contain statistics, but also quotes and case studies.
Understanding the charity’s outcomes was simpler in some areas than others. We knew its counselling was supporting mental health, but what are the outcomes from giving out food parcels? We looked into best practice and researched what other organisations were doing, but couldn’t see anyone doing anything beyond recording outputs, or simply listing the number of parcels given out.
During a conversation with staff at Maundy, we realised that their work corresponded with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It is hard for people to improve their mental health while they are hungry, and Maslow showed why this was the case. We mapped the charity’s outcomes against the Hierarchy of Needs to show how it was supporting its guests to move forward in a range of ways.
Once we had this model, we collected data using surveys, focus groups and stakeholder interviews. At the FSI, we have undertaken a number of focus groups and are always amazed at the information that can be gathered. From these we learnt that Maundy Relief was literally saving lives with their support.
We also undertook stakeholder interviews with key supporters in their local authority, and the process of discussing Maundy seemed to underline for some stakeholders why the charity’s work was so vital to them. Simply measuring its impact was engaging its funders.
The final report therefore used an innovative method to show the outcomes from a range of services, as well as engaging the charity’s funders (as well as its staff and beneficiaries). It focused on the impact on beneficiaries (which was what this funder wanted) but also showed that the charity was relieving pressure on local services – a key outcome for lots of interested parties, also ensuring the impact report would have multiple uses going forward.
Lucy Hardwick, manager at Maundy Relief commented: “The process gave staff and volunteers the opportunity to step back from the day-to-day and to think about our roots, achievements, challenges and future. The resulting impact report was excellent and not only greatly strengthened our bid but also continues to provide a concise and thoughtful overview of our work to other funders.”
National Ugly Mugs
We have also had the pleasure of working with National Ugly Mugs (NUM), a charity that works to support the rights and safety of sex workers around the UK. This is a difficult cause to fundraise for, yet the charity has seen its income grow significantly from around £38k in 2012 to over £214k in 2015, and is expecting it to be even higher this year. One of the reasons for this rise is the messaging it uses and how it demonstrates its impact to a key audience – police forces, who are currently their biggest funder.
NUM produced an impact report which is specifically aimed at the police and demonstrates the charity’s impact on a range of different groups and in different ways. While it does highlight its impact on the safety of sex workers, it also focuses on how its work directly impacts on the safety of the public – a message the police are obviously interested in.
It goes on to show the impact of NUM’s work on the police themselves. While this is not the primary reason for its work, the potential budget savings and the intelligence NUM can provide is vital for the police, and a key way to leverage funding. The charity highlights this in two ways:
1. Using its monitoring data it shows the number of serious incidents it is helping to stop. These are then used alongside external statistics and the police’s own figures to show the number of potential incidents it is stopping, and the potential financial savings for the police.
2. To highlight this point further, the charity uses quotes from ‘cheerleaders’. The role of cheerleaders in fundraising for unpopular causes has been excellently highlighted in Alison Brody and Beth Breeze’s report, Rising to the Challenge. These ‘cheerleaders’ are senior police officers and therefore contemporaries of those reading the report, and the report features quotes from them backing up the statistics. One says: “I have no doubt that NUM has funded itself several times over in terms of the savings to the police and the taxpayer”.
The third and final example is SolarAid and its brilliant impact calculator. We are all aware of the concept of a shopping list in fundraising, but this takes it one step further to show the impact that smaller donations can have. It would be easy for the charity to say “how £10 can buy three solar lights” – some donors would find this compelling. However, it uses clever monitoring to highlight the impact these lights can have.
Instead of just talking about the lights that will be bought, SolarAid goes further to show:
- How many people will be reached by the lights
- The amount of money that will be saved by the families using them
- The extra hours of child study time
- The amount of CO2 saved, and
- The number of people experiencing better health as a result.
Instead of buying three solar lights for £10, you could be buying over 3,000 hours of child study time and helping half a dozen people experience better health. They have an excellent description on their website about how they went through this process, which is a great way of connecting both donors and funders to the difference they are making.
The above examples relied on understanding the audience for impact data, ensuring the correct data was collected and communicating it in a compelling way. Here are a few more tips for implementing a good impact measurement system:
- Put together a model to understand your outcomes and impact (e.g. a Logic Model or Theory of Change)
- Consider the audiences you need to share your impact with, and then decide what messages they are interested in
- Focus on your outcomes (impact being a broader, longer-term change can be a tricky thing to do. Instead measure your outcomes, and link this to impact using case studies or external statistics)
- Audit your monitoring and evaluation systems – are you collecting the right data to show your outcomes and also to engage funders?
- Collect a mix of data – quantitative and qualitative. You should be telling a story to both the head and heart of funders
- Send out your impact to anyone who might be interested – shout it from the rooftops!
Alex Hayes is head of projects and fund development at the Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI). If you are interested in how you can use your impact measurement to build better relationships with funders then please get in touch with Alex at firstname.lastname@example.org