As we shift from shareholders to stakeholders, we have had to think about how best to measure our social impact. Positive stories don’t always cut it, especially when it comes to donors and funders. Moreover when looking for impact investment the demands are even greater.
There are a number of tools available for us to use, from those made by leaders in the industry and a number from your traditional auditing companies. Social Value UK’s SROI, The Rickter Scale and bcorp’s self-audit are some examples, however each of them have limitations.
Finding the right tool for your organisation is tricky, and as you starting using one of the tools you enter a world of metrics, measurements, outputs and outcomes, sending the sanest of us slightly doolally. However to start as you mean to go on, you might not have funds to pay someone else, so crack on yourself.
Here are three tips that have worked for small social enterprises in ensuring they measure social impact properly:
Spend a day or two on making your Theory of Change
If you don’t know what Theory of Change is — check out our blogpost.
This is a great tool for you to think about everything you do and why you do it. ‘Not another tool!’ I hear you cry, but there are reasons why these tools exist so give it a go. It helped me check whether I was creating the impact I had hoped to. In addition to helping put things into context over the short, medium and long term.
Furthermore, it will help you list a number of metrics that you can then measure social impact. For example, you’ll have to think about the financial implications of these metrics. Yet this is one of the hardest parts of measuring impact – to represent impact as a financial return.
Forget the subjectivity for now, as long as you can justify your numbers you can shore them up later on.
Set up systems to measure social impact now!
The better you are equipped to measure social impact, the easier it will be, come the end of year impact report. This can mean setting up excel spreadsheets or cloud based document that your team fill in as you go along.
The things to be recorded will most be dictated by the Theory of Change exercise you carried out before hand. It doesn’t need to be anything too detailed to begin with, as it will evolve as you. Trust me though, after six months you will be happy you set something up. Otherwise you end up flicking through your calendar, checking invoices and photos you’ve posted about numbers and impact.
As mentioned previously, there will also need to be medium and long term monitoring by your organisation. So have in mind how you will gather this information, be it focus groups, questionnaires, success stars etc.
Set dates to measure social impact
You spend two days developing your theory of change. Then a further one or two days making spreadsheets, questionnaires and a database to fill in. But no-one used it.
One way to avoid this is to arrange a meeting when you can all fill in the required information. Perhaps you could turn it into a pizza party or working brunch. Let’s face it, data entry can be boring and annoying.
This will also give you a chance to get an overview of your organisation. For example, you can congratulate each other on the wins so far. More importantly, everyone can see how they’re helping move towards the Theory of Change. It can be very rewarding for all involved, and motivate staff and volunteers to want to come next time (believe it or not!).
Since the definition of social enterprise is still fairly loose, by tracking the positive impact we create for our users, customers and other stakeholders, we can show our real commitment to our cause(s).
It’s key to remember to focus more on outcomes than outputs, as having 20 people come to a workshop is only useful if they then use the information and knowledge they learnt.
So book in those days now, so you can create your Theory of Change, track what you do and produce a report that truly reflects what you are doing.
Check out our resources page for more on Impact Measurement and Theory of Change.