How small organisations can get better at understanding impact
One of the most difficult challenges all grant-making foundations face is how they can better understand the impact they are having. The response of most foundations is to gather data from their grantees, which might include the numbers of people helped, demographic data, and stories about impact. This is what we do at LCF.
It means that our understanding of our impact relies on the groups we fund being able to collect accurate, reliable data about their impact. The groups we fund are often quite small, with limited resources. Some do impact measurement very well, whilst many struggle.
Four stages of impact measurement
We think that the response of smaller, community based organisations generally fall into four stages (these are heavily based on Nesta’s Standards of Evidence, which in turn is derived from Project Oracle):
Stage 1: This is about collecting basic data about the outputs of their activities. For example, the number of people that took part, their gender and ethnicity. This is the most basic level of data collection, often undertaken by organisations that are solely led by volunteers or operating on minimal resources.
Stage 2: Groups at this stage have a Theory of Change. This means that they can clearly explain what they do, and what outcomes they achieve. Whilst these groups can explain what they think their outcomes are, they haven’t yet measured them.
Stage 3: Groups that have reached this stage can demonstrate that their beneficiaries report positive change by asking them once the intervention has finished. Whilst this indicates positive change, the lack of baseline data (i.e. asking them how they felt before the intervention began), makes the data less robust.
Stage 4: The fourth stage involves capturing data before and after an intervention. This data shows positive change and, whilst it doesn’t conclusively prove you caused it, it shows some correlation and makes the data about impact more robust.
Helping you get better at measuring impact
Moving through these stages can seem daunting, but we believe that it’s possible for most groups, even those operating on limited resources. It does require someone to spend some time putting in place the right systems for collecting data, but once this is done it should become a normal part of how your organisation operates.
Throughout 2018 we’ll be dedicating more time to helping you do this. We’ll start with a series of blogs on the stages above, with links to lots of good resources to help you get better at measuring impact.
Having a better understanding of your impact not only improves your chances of getting funding, it improves our ability to convince philanthropists to invest in London’s communities.
And if we can increase investment, we can increase your impact.
You can also check out our Resources page which includes further information on measuring impact.