This week we are continuing to share all things IMPACT through a series of blogs hosted by Social Value UK (SVUK). The series has already covered what impact management is, why it’s important, and how to apply it to your charity, with tips and tricks along the way. SVUK will also be hosting one more live webinar; to stay tuned on all things impact related and more, sign up to our newsletter here. Here’s Part 4:
You’ve got decisions to make. How do you figure out what data to use right now to help to make those decisions?
In the last blog we looked at different methods to gather data, collecting data that is useful and used, here we are looking at how to use it. Charities are experiencing extreme challenges in the current context that are influencing the decisions we are having to make, and the data we need and have access to.
It is becoming even more necessary to focus on making the best decisions possible, to maximise use of the resources we have, with the information that we have available.
Which Data To Use
To use your data you will need to know which bits to focus on, or which changes (outcomes) are most important and therefore should be included in your decisions. There are 3 key concepts that will help guide you:
- Relevance: is this change important to my stakeholders (informed by them)
- Significance: how much change, and which changes have the largest quantities
- Relative importance: are some changes much more important than others (to my stakeholders)
Read more about relevance and significance in the SVI Standard for applying Principle 4: Only Include What is Material.
Read more about relative importance in the SVI Standard for applying Principle 3: Value the things that matter.
The Evaluation Support Scotland ‘Analysing information for evaluation’ resource outlines steps to take to analyse your data, with a great table to help map out your outcomes, indicators, evidence (or data), and learning you have gained from this evidence.
What To Do With The Data
It is really important to be clear on WHY you are gathering the data, WHAT you are using it for, and WHO you are going to present it to, i.e. make sure to define your audience and purpose. For example, will this be for an internal review, so a quick spreadsheet, a few sums, or is some qualitative feedback good enough to guide the decisions you are making? Is it for engagement with a funder so how the information is shared will need to be agreed with the funder, and may need to include more detail or agreed metrics?
Impact conversations with funders: Many funders have responded quickly to the crisis with agility, and also taken this time to implement their own practice adaptation responding to growing and differing needs for communities in light of Covid-19. Impact management can help with better communication with funders and help with better collaboration. The ACF have recently published a report on recommended funder practice ‘Funding Practices: The Pillars of Stronger Foundation Practice’: The importance of impact is outlined throughout the key practice recommendations, such as in recommendations 3 and 5:
3) Seeks to achieve positive impact beyond a financial contribution
5) Regularly reviews its funding practices as part of a culture of learning and things collaboratively to enhance its impact
You may want to use different methods to tell the story your data is helping to provide. Based on your audience and purpose, this could be best done in different ways that are suitable for that audience. A useful overview of different options can be seen in this Evaluation Support Scotland infographic ‘Top tips to communicate research effectively’
Whilst this is a time of rapid change, this can also be a moment where (through necessity or choice) charities need to pause to reflect on what work is being done and to cultivate resilience to be able to make the hard choices, and long term changes that could be needed. Rising Minds are running coaching resilience webinars for leaders that could help. The types of decisions organisations are making in order to make best use of resources are hard, and at speed:
- Whether or not to close
- Whether or not to reduce staff or services
- How to provide new services – to pivot and start something new
- How to grow – increasing need to reach new target groups and increasing capacity
- How to adapt service delivery – to redesign current services to deliver the same outcomes in different ways
Informing Your Stakeholders
One key part of using your data is to keep those who are affected informed of what decisions you are making. This is a big part of being accountable for the effects of your work and actions. This could include feedback to the community, your clients / customers or beneficiaries, and discussions with team and volunteers. This is a really pivotal step that can help with: better engagement your community and beneficiaries; team and volunteer motivation; checking that no harm is being done.
This Coalition for Efficiency & Superhighways ‘Understanding & Measuring change during Covid 19 resources guide’ has a ‘Measuring Change Action plan’ including a focus on learning, sharing and improving , as well as a storytelling framework.