As part of the data, tools and systems strand of Inspiring Impact we have been busy consulting with the sector about the tools they currently use and the things that help or hinder access to them.
We have already identified over 130 tools and systems and would be delighted to hear about others we might have missed, as well as any corrections or updates to the information we have gathered so far. Just contact Substance to keep us in the picture.
120 charities and social enterprises also responded to our survey that sought to gain a better understanding of their access to impact measurement approaches, tools and systems. The respondents came from a wide variety of sectors with a concentration around children, young people and families; employment, education and training; health; and economic, social and community development. In the main, they were providers of front line personal or organizational support services with turnovers ranging from less than £100,000 to over £10 million.
Almost 80% of those who responded had recently adopted or were currently considering a new impact measurement approach or system. Interestingly, and in contrast to other surveys emphasizing the importance of funder demands, the strongest driver of this activity was a ‘desire for improved performance’. This was seen as very important by 62.5% and important by a further 31.3%. This was followed by a ‘greater commitment to organizational learning’ that was seen as very important by 43.5% and important by another 50%.
The need to gain a competitive advantage and pressure from funders still featured in respondents’ considerations, whilst cost was a significant inhibiting factor for those who had not adopted a new approach. However, it is clear that those who are most engaged with impact measurement are recognising the wider non-financial benefits to be gained from the process, with the biggest impacts ultimately related to improvements in organizational communication (95.3%) and confidence (93.2%).
Organisations are seeking information about which tools and approaches to adopt from a range of sources including research reports (60%), peer recommendation (53.3%), external consultants (37.8%), support organisations (31.1%) and dedicated online resources (28.9%). A range of factors were also taken into consideration when making the final decision, with a particular emphasis on the validity or reputation of the approach or system, its adaptability, ease of use and cost.
In terms of promoting sustainable solutions it was also encouraging to see that respondents had considered the challenges that exist beyond the commissioning stage. The need to ensure measured impact can be attributed to the organisation (60%) and the need for an approach that fits with the nature of their work (63%) were both identified as very significant methodological issues that no doubt influence organisations ability to ensure staff and volunteer engagement on an ongoing basis.
These factors may also help to explain the widespread trend towards improvement or development of new internal approaches and systems by over 80% of the respondents. With only 17% of respondents opting for existing systems bought ‘off the shelf’, the need for smarter communication about what is already out there in order to avoid duplication and system proliferation could not be clearer!