Impact round-up: August 2019

Welcome to our August impact round-up. Each month at NCVO Charities Evaluation Services we summarise the latest news in impact and evaluation and share useful guides, resources and data collection tools.

Improving systems to make information more usable

… the agencies involved in the pilot would improve their ability to use their data if they made changes in how they record data rather than what information they collect.

This statement comes from a pilot study of a new data collection template by the Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse (PDF, 2.2MB). However, it’s applicable well beyond the pilot study.

The researchers found that although the pilot organisations were collecting the right data, it was often not recorded in searchable or reportable formats. Much of the data was held in narrative text fields, such as case notes. This in turn made it more difficult to use data to make strategic decisions. Small changes to databases, for example including more specific fields, could make the data much easier to use.

This is also borne out by the findings of the latest Charity Digital Skills Report (PDF). The majority of charities surveyed wanted to use data more effectively, but felt that they were held back by a lack of skills and infrastructure.

You can find out more about collecting and storing routine data on the Inspiring Impact website. You may also find it helpful to check out our colleague Megan Griffith Gray’s blogs on how NCVO is improving its own digital systems. NCVO is also involved in a new initiative called The Catalyst which will be supporting voluntary sector organisations to accelerate their use of digital technologies.

What do grantees want from ‘grants plus’ programmes?

The Esmee Fairbairn Foundation conducted a survey of their grantees to find out more about what they needed from ‘grants plus’ programmes in which funders provide in-kind support as well as funding. Fundraising, evaluation and impact, and business development were the three areas of highest need. One grantee said:

We would value impact and evaluation training but we struggle with the capacity to implement the learning, and we require the support of senior leaders in the organisation to help embed this learning so that it is a part of our daily activity.

If that statement resonates for you, you may find our guide on how to build an impact culture helpful.

New UNFPA strategy on communicating evaluation findings

We have long been advocates for making sure that evaluation findings are communicated well so that evaluations are used to make better decisions. So we were really pleased to see that the new UNFPA strategy includes a lot of good practice for communicating evaluation findings. The video sums up the key principles of good evaluation communication. If you want to find out more, have a look at our resources on reporting evaluation findings, using creative reporting formats and telling your impact story.

On the blogs and social media

Chris Lysy, evaluator, blogger and cartoonist, is back blogging. Here, he takes one of his classic cartoons and turns it into a cautionary tale about what happens when we stop asking questions about our ultimate goals.

Trust for London have published some reflections on their 2018 grants programme and what they have learned. It’s great to see how their analysis of the grants they made – and didn’t make – have influenced their strategy for this year.

The Center for Effective Philanthropy’s blog on why great evaluation takes time as well as money is essential reading for anyone commissioning external evaluations.

We’ve been engaging in the discussions around diversity, equity and inclusion at NCVO and in the wider voluntary sector. This blog about unlearning neutrality as an evaluator and this one about ‘white saviour’ ideas in development illustrate ideas that are pushing us to rethink our practice as evaluators. Does the way we do evaluation, and which voices we listen to, perpetuate inequalities that we’re trying to eliminate?

Training and events

NCVO provides training and events covering a range of topics, from impact to governance, volunteer management and data protection reform – with discounts for NCVO members (Not a member? Find out more).

Here’s what’s coming up:

Outcome and impact measurement (1 day): 5 September

Developing your theory of change: 12 September

How to collect outcome and impact data: 12 November

How to report on your outcome and impact data: 27 November

We can also come to you! Our courses can be delivered at your venue, providing an affordable way to train groups of staff, trustees or volunteers. Contact us for more information.


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Amira is a senior consultant at NCVO Charities Evaluation Services working across projects including delivering open and in-house training, supporting clients to build their evaluation capacity, conducting external evaluations, and supporting clients with strategy development.

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