Over the coming months, we’re sharing 7 lessons to help you. Inspired by ‘Is taking on debt, good finance? Lessons from those who’ve done it’, by Melanie Mills, we’re answering some of the most common questions we hear. In this post (the second of the series), we’re looking at why social impact matters & why you should take the time to measure yours.
Despite having a brilliant cause, many charities & social enterprises lose out on funding because of issues faced recording and presenting their social impact.
Measuring impact isn’t straight-forward, but you can check our previous blog for help on this. Although measuring social impact can be a tricky task to undertake, it helps turn saying what you're doing into showing what you're doing.
There are many lovely ways to show how your organisation makes a difference. Like posting photos on Instagram of the community or individuals you’ve helped, or sharing a quote in a leaflet. However, alongside this, are you recording the number of people you have reached? Do you have data showing the small (& large) changes you've made - and plan to make?
There are no numbers without stories or stories without numbers
It’s important that however you choose to measure your impact, you invest time and resource into doing it carefully.
Measure what you value, don’t value what you measure
Here are four reasons why:
1) You’ll prove you're great
What your organisation is doing is brilliant, those you’re helping think it’s brilliant, but you need to evidence this to investors, funders, stakeholders & trustees.
Ever met somebody who insists they’re fantastic at something but you’ve never seen the proof? Imagine they tell you they're the next Mary Berry. They want you to give them a lot of money for them to buy ingredients for the ‘world’s greatest cake’. You love cake, and you want to believe it’ll be delicious. But you’ve never tried their cakes, nor seen any evidence that they’re any good. So would you give them a lot of your money, only on their word? Unlikely. Is it reasonable to expect a funder to invest or grant money to you if you can’t evidence your statements.
Bake your cake, let others eat your cake, record how your cake changes their life. Celebrate your hard work. Thoroughly recording your impact helps you to show off your organisation’s achievements - enjoy it!
2) You’ll be more likely to match with the right funder
We're sticking with the cake analogy a tiny bit longer. If you love chocolate cake then you want to spend money on the best chocolate cake, not a blueberry muffin. Be specific about what you do, how well you do it & want you want. Then you’ll be in a much better chance of matching with somebody who wants the same thing and can offer you what you need.
Companies taking on investment are including somebody new in their journey. Investors will often be a large part of shaping your organisation. With a clear impact plan, you can be very specific about your impact so far and what you want to achieve. Impact matters for improving your chances of finding somebody who’s passionate to help you reach your goals.
3) You could find it easier to develop your organisation
Recording your social impact helps you to stay on course. You probably started your organisation to focus on a specific social/environmental need. Don’t wake up one day and realise that has somehow slipped away to only focus on money. Or that you took on so many projects that you never completed one. Don’t focus on saying you'll help thousands before you've helped hundreds. Record your impact to stay on task, and use the data to learn from what did or didn’t work.
4) Your employees could become your best brand-ambassadors
Your employees probably work for your organisation because they love your social mission. It’s also often said that transparency is a key part of business' success. So here's a trick: If you find your team are lacking motivation or entrepreneurial spirit, focus on your impact, record your impact, and share your impact with them. This could keep them engaged, enthusiastic & motivated to work hard. Use your impact to keep your team on board.
We know it takes a lot of time and energy to carefully and effectively measure your social impact, but it’s really important that you do this. Here are some tools to help:
- Use our Our matrix tool to help plan and measure your organisation's social impact.
- Use our page of resources & reports to help you measure your impact
- Find free impact tools and resources designed by social enterprises and charities at www.impactsupport.org and https://www.inspiringimpact.org/measuring-up/
- Taking on finance from a social investor is about much more than the money
- Honesty is always the best policy. If things don’t work out as you planned, tell your investor.
- Social investment – what does it cost and why isn’t it cheaper if it’s social?
- Due diligence isn’t fun but it does make your business better for going through the process (even if you don’t get the investment)
- It always takes longer than you think
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By Emily Parrett, Good Finance. Inspired by ‘Is Taking on Debt Good Finance?’, Melanie Mills.