Measuring Impact in the Third Sector Author: GUEST POST     
Date: 2nd February 2018



Charitable organisations are under increasing scrutiny from the public and funding bodies to demonstrate their impact and be accountable for their activities. Measuring and reporting on impact allows charities to better articulate the difference they are making to their beneficiaries and provides an evidence-base to help external stakeholders engage with and understand their work. Good impact practise also supports staff and trustees in being more results-driven and allows for more effective allocation of limited resources.

The first step in implementing a new impact measurement and reporting protocol, or improving an existing one is ensuring that you really know what the term impact means. The terms output, outcome and impact are often used interchangeably but can mean quite different things. It is important to keep these definitions in mind when measuring and reporting on impact.

 

Outputs

The products, services or facilities that result from an organisation’s or project’s activities

Outcomes

The changes, benefits, learning or other effects that result from what the project or organisation makes, offers or provides

Impacts

The broader or longer-term effects of a project’s or organisation’s outputs, outcomes and activities

 

At my placement organisation, I have been tasked with developing a new impact measurement and reporting protocol and this has been the subject of my impact research for Charityworks. I work for a funding charity, which means measuring impact requires different tactics to charities working directly with beneficiaries. Moreover, my organisation is quite unique in that it funds both medical research and community-based organisations working directly with beneficiaries.

The disparity in the types of things funded means that I will need to develop two separate impact measurement and reporting protocols: one for the medical research grant portfolio and one for the community-based grant portfolio. The former of these is the subject of my first research project (watch this space for my next post about measuring impact of community-based projects!).

The first step I took in developing a new impact measurement and reporting protocol was drafting a Theory of Change diagram for my organisation, in order to identify the intermediate outputs and outcomes I could measure in order to determine whether the organisation was working towards its desired impact(s). I then explored software which could support the process and conducted interviews with other research-funding charity staff members on their approach to this problem. After my research I have recommended the purchase of a software called Researchfish, which provides a standardised, structured reporting system for recording the outputs, outcomes and impacts of research and is used by many research institutes and research-funding charities currently. The adoption of this system will not only help my organisation by providing more information on the impacts of their funded-research, but will also reduce the reporting burden on researchers, as the information put into Researchfish can be used by multiple funders.

Measuring the impact of funded-research will support decision-making in my charity, and will hopefully lead to more impactful research being funded in the future.

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