Impact round-up: December 2019

Welcome to the festive edition of our monthly 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.

Is there a ‘golden formula’ for charity effectiveness?

Charities have long struggled with the ‘pence in the pound’ approach to measuring charity effectiveness. This formula measures the percentage of spend that goes directly to frontline services. It’s clear that this is a flawed measure: it assumes that charities that don’t invest in infrastructure are more effective, and it doesn’t give any indication that spend on frontline services actually makes any difference.

Another option is to attempt to value outcomes economically – the ‘impact per dollar’ approach. This has its benefits, at least in that it includes the difference charities make. But it tends to default to measuring only what can be measured, and doesn’t work well for charities that are seeking to influence or change systems. This article, by the US-based group Nonprofit AF, outlines the flaws in the approach.

Regular readers will know that we showcased CLIC Sargent’s recent impact report in our October round-up. In that report, they propose a ‘golden formula‘ for understanding charity effectiveness. Rather than a single metric, it sets out three questions:

  1. How many people do we reach?
  2. What sort of impact do we have?
  3. How much do we spend doing that?

This is a much more nuanced approach, particularly as it doesn’t try to reduce it all to a single metric. It also allows, as in the CLIC Sargent report, for a mixture of numbers and stories to capture impact. Perhaps it’s worth trying out in your next impact or annual report.

Data visualisation: Annual surveys

We’ve been working hard over the last year or two to improve our data visualisation practice and we think we’re getting better at using data to tell a clearer story.

We know that many organisations send out annual surveys to their users or members and want to share the results, but aren’t sure how to turn all of that data into clear, easy-to-understand messages. This makeover of one organisation’s annual survey might provide some useful tips – and it can all be done in Excel!

Good data visualisation depends on good analysis. Check out our guidance for analysing qualitative data and also quantitative data on NCVO Knowhow.

Also in the news and on the blogs

We’ve been inspired by Sophia Parker’s blog post on love as a driving force in the voluntary sector, and thinking about how evaluation (a ‘professionalising’ activity) can support ‘radical’ acts of love.

A funder brought together evaluation consultants to understand barriers to good evaluation. The results can be seen in this picture: managing expectations about data was the biggest barrier identified.

The Evaluator magazine is now available for download. Many of the articles are drawn from presentations at the UK Evaluation Society conference in May 2019 entitled ‘Evaluation: a diverse field.’

For a bit of festive fun, have a look at these Christmas impact-themed cartoons from Chris Lysy.

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:

  • Developing your theory of change – 21 January
  • Outcome and impact measurement (two days) – 6 and 7 February
  • How to report on outcome and impact data – 12 February
  • How to collect outcome and impact data – 26 February
  • Strategic planning: Creating the right process for your organisation – 16 March
  • Outcomes and impact assessment for funders, grant makers and commissioners – 26 March

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 Tharani 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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