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Posted by Sarah Brown on 10 Feb '14

Are you measuring your social impact effectively?

{img_title} Social impact is jargon to most of the world but despite not knowing what it is, most people can recognise it and when they see it, it encourages them to give or feel differently.


I think most of life is about stories and social impact is the punch line or the happy ever after of the story that a charity, social enterprise or business is telling.
Sometimes this is an anecdote. For example, I was working with a Riding for the Disabled branch to help them establish the need for an indoor riding arena so that they could get funding. After a lot of research and digging finally I got to the amazing ‘social impact’ that for some young people the first time they talk is when they are on a horse and can see a reason or are motivated to say walk on – that is changing a life – that is social impact!


But even that emotionally jolting anecdote would potentially be even stronger if you knew that 10 people each year at a branch started to talk or talk more fluently because of their riding. Data and data which can be objectively measured is powerful. In the extreme it is the foundation of payment by results. Membership of an after school club improves school attendance when measured against a control group, training results in people getting better jobs paying x% more, people lose weight because of the activity you run, these all have a value and tell a story.


Almost certainly for the charities reading this, the social impact they have is much more complex and difficult to measure but if you can find some simple indicators they are easier and cheaper to track, easier to communicate and easier for you to use in your marketing. If you don’t find ways to effectively measure your social impact then funders and donors will have to just trust that you are doing a good job at changing the world and you are in danger of losing out to others who do measure and have a good story even if you believe they may not be as successful as you.


Your social impact is fundamental to who you are if you are a charity you need to make sure you can effectively tell the story of how you change the world or you might lose the money to keep on changing it.