For Non-Profit organizations, no buzzword is as daunting as the word “impact.”
Much rides on your Non-Profit’s capacity to showcase its impact to donors, investors and to the organizations that distribute grants.
As such, “measuring impact” has become a mantra for Non-Profits professionals around the world. If you want to impress your donors, ask for more money, and secure the most competitive grants with your unique fundraising ideas, you’ll need to prove your impact with numbers. After all, numbers don’t lie.
But are they enough?
To truly showcase your organization’s impact with numbers, you’ll need to present data in such a way that it connects with your donor’s values. Thus, it’s essential that you develop a strategy for effective social impact communication. It’ll have a huge impact on your donor retention rate and ability to attract new donors.
Simply put, social impact refers to the positive effect that your organization’s activities have on a specific social issue or cause, and, on a grander scale, on the overall wellbeing of society.
Since, the latter is almost impossible to measure, social impact reporting focuses on specific goals, identifying inputs (i.e., fiscal, physical, intellectual, etc.) and outputs (i.e., milestones achieved, etc.), and outcomes – many of which unfold over time.
To get to the heart of how successfully your organization is performing, and whether the investment of your organization’s valuable resources are bringing about desired results through its unique fundraising ideas, your organization needs to measure and report on its social impact.
After you’ve reviewed, interpreted, summarized, and drawn conclusions from the data – determining whether (and to what extent) your activities brought about a meaningful social impact – your next step is to create an impact report.
An impact report for Non-Profits is a document that showcases the results of your Non-Profit’s activities over a time period, often explicitly focusing on one program or event. In the case of a social impact report, your organization needs to showcase its Social Return on Investment (SROI), a relatively new and exciting tool for communicating your Non-Profit benefits to the community.
According to The New Economics Foundation, SROI “captures social value by translating outcomes into financial values.”Essentially, the SROI metric determines the cost of what would happen if your Non-Profitdidn’t exist. For example, researchers have determined the average cost of a single case of homelessness in Canada. You can use those figures to show costs avoided, if your Non-Profit prevents homelessness or helps people regain permanent housing. This can lead to all sorts of unique fundraising ideas.
But again, it’s not enough simply to communicate the numbers.
To truly “wow” your constituents, you’ll need to present the numbers in the context of the problems you aimed to solve. You need to provide clear evidence to support claims about your outcomes. By evidence, we don’t just mean complex measurement tools and randomised control trials—good impact reporting includes a combination of case studies, anecdotal feedback, survey results, web stats, and so on. Use lots of visuals and remember to avoid the use of jargon. Instead, use well-established language that you might find in ordinary media publications (which tend to be written at an approximately 9th grade reading level).
Another way of approaching this is to ask: “What do my constituents need to know?” Or, put differently, “What data do I need to present to motivate future donations?” Collecting (and presenting) a lot of unnecessary evidence is a waste of your time. Just because something is easy to measure, or because you can measure it, doesn’t mean it will tell you anything useful about your social impact.
In the end, you’ll want to translate raw data into useful information about your organization’s social impact. Turn your claims about SROI, social impact, and your unique fundraising ideasinto talking points like: “Every dollar invested into the Non-Profit’s mission savedX dollars in community resources” or “Program X is more sustainable/better/has a more significant impact than other programs because of [insert SROI].” This will ensure that your social impact is a persuasive, well-reasoned component of your impact report.