We’re in a state of transition; a movement from the age of the social era to that of the social impact era. In this context, the role of Monitoring and Evaluation professionals is becoming increasingly important.
Scot Tatelman – Co-founder of STATE
“If you’re going to create real impact, it has to be done with the same focus and level of intensity as your business.”
Why measuring social impact matters
Though it’s no easy task, measuring social impact matters. A lot. This is especially true for nonprofits as they seek to deliver on their mission, the outcomes of which can be difficult to track and measure.
Coupled with this, is the fact that social impact funders are becoming more discerning about where their resources are applied. As a result, nonprofits are increasingly compelled to develop their ability to determine whether they’re making a difference, and to know how to invest wisely in order to improve over time.
Nonprofits are increasingly compelled to develop their ability to determine whether they’re making a difference…
1) Access to finance
Impact is an increasingly important item on investors’ agendas, and one that is proving hard to ignore. If you’re looking to access funding, getting ahead by embedding good impact practice and measuring relevant impact will ensure your social enterprise stands out from the crowd in a competitive bidding process. Demonstrating exactly how you deliver on your mission can make the difference between securing funding and missing a valuable opportunity.
Demonstrating exactly how you deliver on your mission can make the difference between securing funding and missing a valuable opportunity.
2) Measuring impact is the sign of a well-run ship
Impact can be a form of performance monitoring, and embedding impact measurement within your organisation sets up highly visible ways of judging its success. It’s a signal to donors, investors and beneficiaries that your organisation cares about improving its delivery and is willing to be held accountable for its performance.
3) Impact data can tell a story
Communicating your work effectively builds engagement with stakeholders. Stakeholders such as donors or impact investors increasingly want to see the return on their investment, whilst wider stakeholders want to know how your work is progressing. Using empirical data as evidence of your outcomes and benefits helps build your narrative. Telling a good story needs facts and impact, not just output.
Telling a good story needs facts and impact, not just output.
4) Impact reporting is here to stay (and will gain momentum)
Whilst use of the term ‘impact’ may change, the key principle will remain the same: the need to effectively demonstrate your performance as an organisation. As the impact agenda moves forward to include more empirical benchmarking, using core indicators for particular areas and beneficiary groups, and being ready with your relevant impact indicators and data will help to ensure your competitive advantage.
5) Achieving your purpose
As social organisations, your mission and purpose is central to your existence and reason for being. Delivering on that mission is why you carry out your work, so having definitive proof of how you’re achieving your aims, and to what extent, is paramount. Impact is a valuable tool for ensuring more is done better, for the benefit of society.
The question, as Rodriguez so simply put it, is not whether to measure impact, but how to do it effectively and efficiently, and ensure it’s embedded into your organization.
Part 2 of this series looks at the findings of a study commissioned to address the lack of evidence available to support nonprofits working in international development in deciding what resources to commit to monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL).