13th February, 2012

Demonstrating social impact

Transparency in demonstrating impact

It has never been so important to demonstrate impact.

You can hardly open a third sector magazine or website without hearing the need to measure and demonstrate the difference you make.

Most charities will be well versed in measuring outcomes for statutory and trust funding, but all too often this is not revealed to the casual browser prospective individual supporter. 

GuideStar and Hope Consulting recently released results of new research into the ‘voice of the customer’ for charitable giving, Money for Good II (MFGII).  The study shows that despite having different motivations to give and different research patterns, individual donors, trusts & foundations and advisors all want information on a non-profit organisation’s financials and effectiveness.  There’s a great post here on the research if you want to know more.

A quick glance at many non-profits websites will show that they talk about the cause, many will bring to life the stories of beneficiaries, but still, not many demonstrate the difference that they make in a transparent way.  You have to dig to find this information, if its recorded at all. 

The ImpACT Coalition have written a Transparency Manifesto, which sets out nine principles of what third sector organisations should meet or be working towards, in order to be transparent.

I’d like to highlight the first two:

1. Demonstrate the change you seek to bring about, how you achieve it and the progress made so far

Does your website say what you are trying to achieve, how and the progress you have made? Could I find this information on your website within 5 minutes? 

I recently wrote an independent evaluation of Nightstop services and am delighted that they’ve published it on the home page of Depaul Nightstop UK.  Kudos to them, because the report says how they should improve as well as what they do well.

2. Communications should be transparent, accurate and written so that they can be understood by their intended audiences

The MFG II research – and another study by Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University – conclude that individual donors don’t want to wade through reams of information

Many will want to see your impact at a glance; some will want to drill down into that information.  That’s why we included an infographic in the evaluation of Nightstop.  Simply, an infographic is a visual representation of information.  It’s a great way of showing, at a glance, what you do, who your beneficiaries are and the difference you make.


There’s much evidence about the importance of measuring impact, but if you’re not being transparent about it – both in making it easy to understand and readily available, you’re simply not telling your supporters what they want to know. 

Do you have any examples you want to highlight on demonstrating impact?

Get in touch for a no-obligation chat if you need some help demonstrating your organisation’s impact.


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