Over the coming weeks whatCharity will be sharing all things impact related through a series of blogs hosted by Social Value UK (SVUK). The series will cover 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 two live webinars; to stay tuned on all things impact related and more sign up to our newsletter here. Here’s Part 1:
There is a growing rumble around impact. That it is important, should be measured (and managed), that funders want to know about it, our external audiences want to know what we’ve done, that we should be reporting on it, that it matters. And whilst at Social Value UK we are certainly encouraged by this swell of energy it is useful to take a step back and ask WHY? What is the purpose of impact measurement and management for charities? And why is this gaining more traction during these incredibly challenging times?
What Is Impact Management?
Measuring your impact means knowing how you change people’s lives, and by how much. Managing impact means that you take this knowledge and use it to improve the changes that we are causing, by reducing negative effects, and increasingly focusing on the areas that are most important to those we affect. We can ask ourselves, are we creating as much positive impact as we can with the resources we have available, or more simply ‘is what we are doing perfect? Or is there room for improvement?’ It’s most likely there will be opportunities to improve, and always will be.
Managing impact is about being accountable for the changes that are down to us, about striving for continuous improvement and efficiency, and about focusing on what is most important to those we serve, bringing clarity to our social purpose.
Why are people looking to their impact now? This could be answered by the purpose outlined above of why managing your impact is important: for gathering data (or information) that can help with making the best, most efficient, most effective, most targeted decisions for the benefit of your beneficiaries, and continuously searching for ways to improve.
Many charities have already been engaging with their impact to drive decisions about their activities – most people working for charities are already driven by doing the best for those that need it most. Increasingly though, in the current crisis, change is happening all the time, and fast. Charities are working within an environment where the economy has ground to a halt, with huge shifts in ways of working, a reduction in capacity to deliver, increased difficulty to plan amidst so much uncertainty, and swings in funding availability and focus. Most importantly of all, particularly for those working directly with those in need, the most vulnerable people in society have become even more vulnerable and in many cases harder to reach, bringing huge increases in demands for support, and increased challenges in being able to deliver for those in need.
Whilst these are really challenging times, this can also be an opportunity to reflect, compose and focus on what is really important for you and for your beneficiaries. By focusing on the purpose of impact management as continuous improvement, charities can:
- gain clarity and focus of your social purpose
- improve efficiency – delivering what you are aiming to achieve better
- increase accountability – being accountable to those whose lives we do affect
- engage across all of our stakeholder groups, staff, volunteers, community, board, funders. Knowing your impact can be exciting and energising
- guide strategy – how are you making the difficult choices you are forced to make in this time?
How Do I Get My Charity Started?
Underpinning all of these ideas are the Social Value Principles, guiding building blocks for any approach to managing impact. The Social Value Principles have an essential role to play in engaging our stakeholders, bringing visibility to what is most important to focus on, informing decision-making and helping organisations to thrive in these challenging times.
For more on how to get started, stay tuned. This series of blogs will guide charities through the basic need to knows on the importance of impact management and how to make it work for your organisation, with resources and tips along the way. There will also be supporting online sessions to go into more of the detail on the ‘how’. In the meantime, here are 3 key organisations and programmes that are here to help:
- Inspiring Impact programme for VCSE organisations to develop IM capacity
- Social Value UK, the professional body for anyone interested in social impact and social value
- Social Value International, global standards setter for social value accounting