Background

The charity sector changes millions of lives and tackles some of the most difficult problems in society. But it has the potential to do even more.

Focusing on impact—that is, the difference an organisation’s work makes to those it seeks to help—can help charities get better at what they do and reach more people, more effectively. Inspiring Impact encourages and supports charities and social enterprises to measure their social impact, to measure to a high standard, and to learn from the findings so that they can improve.

Who is measuring impact?

Charities and social enterprises, and their funders and investors, are increasingly focused on ensuring they use their resources to make the greatest positive difference to society. This focus on social impact is not new, but the challenging economic context has driven it up the agenda, as government, funders, and social investors look to get the most for their limited resources.

A 2012 survey by NPC, Making an impact, examined the state of impact measurement across the UK charity sector. It showed that over 50% of charities are measuring impact for all or nearly all of their activities. But worryingly, almost 25% do not measure impact at all.

Graph 1: UK charities’ impact measurement practices (click to enlarge)

Impact measurement in the UK

What are the benefits of impact measurement?

Charities measuring their impact see many benefits. The most commonly cited benefit, encouragingly, is improved services. Other benefits include improved ability to demonstrate results, better targeting of services, increased funding and improved strategy.

Graph 2: The benefits UK charities see from measuring their impact (click to enlarge)Graph2

What are the barriers to measuring impact?

Charities see a number of challenges when it comes to measuring their impact. Most common is a lack of funding and resources, but close behind is a perceived lack of skills, not knowing what to measure, and not knowing how to measure. Inspiring Impact aims to overcome these barriers through our work across five themes, to make good impact measurement realistic and appealing for all charities.

Graph 3: Barriers to impact measurement according to UK charities (click to enlarge)

Barriers to impact measurement

What would help charities improve impact measurement?

Charities cite a number of factors that would help them overcome the barriers to impact measurement. These include financial support, support to develop measurement tools, sharing knowledge with similar organisations, expert help, better knowledge of analysing data and off-the-shelf tools.

Graph 4: What would help UK charities to develop impact measurement?  (Click to enlarge)

Graph3

Find out more

Find out more about UK impact measurement practices in Making an impact, which is available to download for free as a pdf on NPC’s website.

Next: Find out more about how we assess our own impact >