Measuring and Communicating Your Social Impact: A Guide For Nonprofits

August 22, 2022

Most nonprofit organizations start as a result of a ‘lack of'' in a few pockets of society. Nobody's concept of success is definite, and even within the nonprofit sector, the definition of success is different for every organization. The most important thing for nonprofit executives to focus on as they navigate problem-solving is ensuring that the organization is accomplishing its objectives, running effectively, and creating a positive impact. 

Impact is a frequently discussed subject at roundtables, seminars, and meetings, as well as in innumerable blogs and publications. The phrase "measuring impact" has become a catchphrase among nonprofit professionals all around the world. As the number of nonprofit organizations increases across the world, more and more people have an opportunity to give back through these organizations. By measuring the impact your nonprofit creates, you will be able to provide your donors with transparency and the knowledge of how they are able to help make a difference in the world. 

For you to be able to do so, there are a few steps you need to follow. In this article, we will discuss how you can measure and communicate your social impact. 

Define what Impact means for you

Financial stability is crucial for sustainability in the nonprofit sector, but other indicators are just as significant. Many nonprofit organizations tend to place more emphasis on tracking their daily operations such as the number of programs implemented or activities created rather than on how these programs and activities contributed to making a real difference. The National Council of Nonprofits encourages nonprofit organizations of all types to cultivate a culture that prioritizes the lasting impact they are having. 

Your nonprofit board must establish what success looks like in order to achieve it. From there, you may decide how to measure the outcomes and create a plan to assist you to succeed in line with your objective. Creating a logic model for your organization that incorporates inputs, activities, outputs, and the outcome is one strategy to help you measure the real-time impact of your activities. 

Inputs: these refer to the resources required to get the desired results. Here the means required to implement your strategies are called into question. The plan, Staff, funds required, technology, etc., are all that you will need to run your activities successfully.  

Activities: This is the step in which you implement your plan. Taking the necessary steps to achieve your goals is the essence of your activities.

Output: Outputs refer to the tangible results you are able to comprehend right away. These are formed out of the direct influence of the inputs. For example, if your input is all the materials required to enroll 100 children from low-income groups in a school, then your output will be the number of children that were successfully enrolled and continued going to school.

Outcomes: Here's where the kind of quantifiable change you sought to bring about comes into question. What was the goal you wished to achieve? For example, if your goal was to enroll 100 children in a school, and you took all the steps to do so, the literacy rate of that region increases, child labor decreases, and pressure is alleviated from parents with mid-day-meal schemes to feed these children. These are all the outcomes of your activities.  

By determining the outcomes and outputs of your interventions, you will be able to anticipate the future better and they will act as an appropriate indicator of the effectiveness of your programs. Once you've determined the outcomes and outputs of your company you can start planning questions about the impact that will guide your choice of performance measurement. Some questions you should be able to answer are:

  • Did your plan help the students gain new knowledge?
  • Do participants have improved quality of life and financial security?
  • Was your program a viable solution to the problem of the community?

This is one strategy you can use for impact measurement. Regardless of what your nonprofit’s definition of success and Impact is, there are a few fundamental questions that when answered can give you the Impact your activities or nonprofit as a whole has had on the community.

Impact can be measured by answering:

  • Who is better off?
  • What did you do?
  • How well did you do it?
  • How are people better off?
Analyze why measurement is necessary for your organization

You should have a purpose in mind while evaluating the impact of your nonprofit, or consider how the results will further your goals. To start, are you tracking the impact of your organization for management or strategy metrics?

Evaluation for management: Monitoring is another name for measuring management, which focuses on procedures, effectiveness, and execution (i.e. the number of participants). On a monthly basis, the data is often gathered and examined more frequently.

Evaluation for strategy: This method, also referred to as an "assessment," focuses on the long-term effects and the data required to support future planning. The data is usually collected less regularly, on a semi-annual or annual basis, and it relates to result and impact statistics, namely how the program affects participant livelihood.

In most circumstances, it is preferable to measure the performance of outcomes on impact rather than impact-per-dollar, which is not a reliable indicator of an organization's efficacy. Once you have a clear understanding of your reasons for measurement, you will now have to gather this data and communicate this data to the relevant audience. This clarity will allow you to more clearly describe how your nonprofit is accomplishing its mission. 

Collection of data 

To measure the impact of your chosen strategy, the first step is to determine the form of data you need to be collecting. There are two types of data you can collect: qualitative and quantitative. Both types are crucial but will have different indicators of measurement, different tools will be needed and these can be used in different forms to communicate different metrics. Quantitative data expresses your impact in the form of numbers whereas, qualitative data gives those findings context. To most effectively convey the impact of your organization a mixture of both forms can really help. Start by answering the following questions:

  1. Are these measures related to important policy and practice issues?
  2. Are these measures relevant and do they apply to practitioners?
  3. Can these measures be communicated in a way that will influence outcomes?
  4. Are incentives built into the system for collecting and acting on these data?
  5. Are the measures linked to the stakeholders’ interests?

The answers to these questions will give you a pathway to establishing the form of data to collect and how to get it. 

Data collection through a tedious task, we believe should be an easy process. There are many tools out there that can help you in the data collection process but the more sophisticated and convenient the software, the more you might have to shell out. If you have the bandwidth to take time out and learn how to use MS Excel for data collection, then you will have a cost-effective way of collecting and organizing data. But if that’s not an option, do check out Sureimpact. They provide social impact measuring solutions.

Communicating Your Social Impact

In a professional setting, you must consistently demonstrate that your activities are in line with your brand's values and stakeholder expectations. When communicating your social impact, you must support your claims with evaluation data and evaluation results. Applications of assessment data that are externally focused include marketing, communications, and corporate reporting. These applications demonstrate how your company's actions have a significant impact on the lives of customers, employees, suppliers, and other stakeholders.

There are many different ways you can benefit from collecting and showcasing your data but in order to do so, you must know how to use this data to your advantage. Here are some ways through which you can communicate your impact to your audience:

  • The beginning or the end of a grant application;
  • A social media campaign
  • The annual report
  • A newsletter
  • A learning event
  • A collaborative meeting with another nonprofit
  • Strategy meetings
  • Staff meetings and retreats

To Conclude

Any corporation that wishes to legitimately claim that social benefits come from its economic activities must engage in some type of social impact performance monitoring and measurement. Although the concept of performance monitoring for operations improvement is not new, it is essentially a technical activity that requires tools and techniques to assess outputs and deviations. Because of the complexity of many long-term social changes, measuring social effect is not only more difficult but there are also extra requirements for internal and external communication on top of the evaluation operations.

Chezuba understands the requirements of a nonprofit organization and also their limitations. We have developed a platform through which you can access a pool of kind-hearted, and skilled volunteers to help your organization fulfill its mission. Whether you need help formulating an impact report or handling your social media accounts, you can post a project with Chezuba and find a volunteer for your needs. Join the Chezuba family today.

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