Amira Chilvers is a consultant at NCVO Charities Evaluation Services. She supports charities of all types and sizes to improve their monitoring and evaluation through training and consultancy, as well as conducting external evaluations. Amira has a background in education, having trained as a teacher and undertaken various education consultancy roles prior to joining NCVO.
Making predictions is a tricky business, but it doesn’t require a crystal ball to suggest that ‘impact’ will continue to be a buzzword in 2017 and indeed beyond that. In a climate where public trust in charities has fallen it is ever more important for charities to be able to describe and demonstrate the difference that they make.
As we move into a new year and have an opportunity to take stock, it is a good time to think both about demonstrating our impact better and about how we can use the information we collect to make better decisions, and therefore make more of an impact for the causes we exist to serve.
This has long been central to NCVO Charities Evaluation Services’ approach and is one reason why we are pleased to be a partner in the Impact Management Programme, which aims to build the capacity of charities and social enterprises to manage their impact. ‘Impact management’ involves not just measuring the difference we make but also thinking about how to make that information central to how we manage and lead our organisations.
If that resonates with you, here are three questions to ask yourself in 2017.
1. Are we measuring what matters?
The organisations we work with sometimes collect a lot of data without really knowing how they will use it or how it will help them; many have layers of data collection developed in an ad-hoc way over time.
This can lead to staff feeling overburdened, and to not having the right information to make better decisions. It is much more useful, and less onerous, to be clear on what really matters to your organisation and only collect the data that you need to evidence the most important changes. The process of thinking through what is most important can also galvanise and re-engage your team.
2. Do we use our information effectively?
When organisations are clear on what really matters and what difference they are seeking to make, it becomes much easier to use the information they collect:
- Performance data informs day to day decision making and incremental improvements to services.
- Aggregated data and evaluation findings drive strategic planning, organisational aims and even staff objectives.
- Key facts and stories bring marketing and communications materials to life.
- Funding applications are easier because the key information is at your fingertips.
3. Are we willing to fully explore our opportunities to improve?
When we are assessing the difference that we make it is important to also consider the things that may not be working so well. Courageous organisations consciously take opportunities to investigate where things could be better, without apportioning blame and for the purpose of learning, so they can find ways to improve.
Doing so may illustrate a need to change direction, to revise your theory of change, or to change the working culture and conditions, all of which ultimately will improve your organisation’s ability to make a difference.
We’d love to hear how you are currently dealing with these questions: What’s working well? What are your worst headaches? What support do you need from the Impact Management Programme? Please do get in touch via the comment box below.