Read the principles of good impact practice

For charities and social enterprises, 'impact' is the difference you make. By focusing on your impact, you can make more of a difference through your work. This means planning what impact you want to have and how best to achieve it, collecting information about your impact, assessing what impact you’re having, communicating this information and learning from it.

Inspiring Impact has developed two sets of principles—for charities and funders—to identify what good impact practice looks like. The principles are complementary and have been developed through sector-wide consultation.

The Code of Good Impact Practice provides broad, agreed guidelines for focusing on impact. It sets out a cycle of impact practice and a series of high level principles to follow. Each principle includes a brief description of how your impact practice would look if you were applying the principle, an explanation of why it is important and some ideas about how to implement it.

The Code of Good Impact Practice

The Code of Good Impact helps charities to improve their impact practice with eight broad principles for focusing on impact and a cycle of impact practice. These principles can be applied to all kinds of charities and social enterprises, and they can help funders and commissioners to better understand good impact practice for the organisations they fund.

1. Take responsibility for impact and encourage others to do so too

Impact is embedded in the culture of your organisation. All staff and volunteers see it as their responsibility to create impact through their work, to play their part in showing how their work makes a difference and sharing what they learn from it with others. Leaders of your organisation see delivering impact as their primary responsibility and duty.

2. Focus on purpose

You’re clear about your purpose as an organisation: the difference that you exist to make. You’re able to explain your intended impact in meeting this purpose. You can describe how you will create this impact, plainly and in ways that everyone can understand.

3. Involve others in your impact practice

At all stages of impact practice you look for appropriate opportunities to involve others. As a minimum this includes involving those with direct experience of the organisation’s activities. It could also include other organisations doing similar work or funders.

4. Apply proportionate and appropriate methods and resources

You’re realistic in your impact practice—you apply time, effort and methods proportionate and appropriate to the scale and scope of the work. If necessary, you keep things simple and do what you can to focus on impact. You choose methods that fit with the values and ethos of your organisation, and you’re clear about the purpose of collecting impact information, who will use it and for what.

5. Consider the full range of the difference you make

You know that you might have an impact beyond your intended beneficiaries or a negative as well as a positive impact. You acknowledge that in some cases you will balance positive impact on your beneficiaries with negative impact on others. You seek to understand why your work might have a longer term or wider impact than anticipated. Equally, you know that change may be short term, have occurred without your involvement, or be the result of other initiatives.

6. Be honest and open

You’re honest and open about the impact you intend to have, and your findings on the difference you have or haven’t made, as well as what you have learnt from these findings and how you will act on these lessons. You’re honest and open about the scope of your impact practice. You and your funders discuss what works, what doesn’t work, and what you can learn.

7. Be willing to change and act on what you find

You’re ready to change as a result of finding out what impact you are or are not having. You commit to learning from your impact assessment and you actively use it to inform strategy, planning and delivery. Your funders are also willing to learn and change.

8. Actively share your impact plans, methods, findings and learning

You communicate your impact plans, methods, findings and learning to ensure others know what you’re trying to achieve and to contribute to a wider view of what does or doesn’t work. You share appropriate information inside and outside the organisation. You acknowledge the limitations of your findings.

 

Downloads

Download the full Code of Good Impact Practice report and the two page summary in English.
Download the full Code of Good Impact Practice report and the two page summary in Welsh.
Download the full Code of Good Impact Practice report in Portuguese.

 

For funders, 'impact' is the difference you make. By focusing on your impact, you can make more of a difference through your work. This means planning what impact you want to have and how best to achieve it, collecting information about your impact, assessing what impact you’re having, communicating this information and learning from it.

Funders’ principles and drivers of good impact practice

In a diverse funding community, impact practice takes many forms. Funders have a critical role to play in shaping behaviour around impact practice, and their approach and support strongly influences practice among grantees and investees. The funders’ principles and drivers of impact practice provides a starting point for discussions about approaches to impact. These principles and drivers are designed to offer practical guidance for funders, and to help promote good impact practice amongst the organisations and people they support.

Principles

1. Proportionality in relation to rigour and resources

Proportionality has implications for resource allocation (time and money) and on reporting requirements. It is important to avoid wasting effort or starting with unrealistic expectations, which can be counter-productive in the long run. However, it is also important to ensure findings about an organisation’s impact are compared either to similar data collected over time, or to other approaches, in order to draw meaningful conclusions.

2. Open mindedness, flexibility, adaptability and transparency

It is important to take a flexible approach and adapt practice as appropriate. Openness and transparency build trust, foster ongoing dialogue and ensure genuine learning about what works well and what does not.

3. Acknowledgement of respective independent values

Working practices of funders and charities are driven by their own values, which define their independence of purpose, voice and action. Funding relationships, including impact practice, should be based on mutual recognition of respective values, roles and responsibilities.

4. Recognition that everyone can contribute to impact, and also to impact practice.

Widespread organisational involvement can inspire and motivate staff, trustees and stakeholders and contribute to development of both the organisation itself and its practices.
The funder drivers of good impact practice are:

Drivers

1. Seek clarity about the difference funders and the organisations they support want to make.

Being clear about the difference you want to make is a prerequisite to planning your organisation’s activity, and central to any approach to impact evaluation. This will define the nature, scope and detail of work undertaken, and help determine the type and level of evidence required and the most appropriate methods and tools to collect and analyse it. It will also help identify the potential for the use of shared data or adoption of shared measurement approaches.

2. Support organisations in their impact practice, and resource the funder’s own impact practice.

Funders play a role in supporting impact in many ways and at all stages in the impact cycle. It is important to invest in work that makes a difference in the first place, and then to assess and learn from it. Only impact assessment tools that focus on evidence relevant to the desired outcomes should be used. Tools should use quantitative and qualitative data as appropriate, and should also seek to capture unintended impact. Reporting of all impact—positive, neutral and negative—should be encouraged. Shared measurement should be considered where appropriate, at all levels—the organisation, programme, and project

3. Identify the difference made and assess how and why it was made.

Thorough analysis is required to draw out lessons that can inform decision making and future practice. This analysis should focus on what the change has been, and the causes of that change. Comparisons should be drawn where possible over time or against other activity, and consideration given to what could be done differently.

4. Share and act on learning and seek to improve practice.

Knowledge and learning are valuable commodities which should be shared with others. Funders should expect to learn from their peers too. But acquiring knowledge is only valuable if it is acted on to inform decision making and change future policy and practice—this applies equally to funders and the people and organisations they support. Creating and assessing impact are not static processes: they require constant review and refinement of your approach, taking into account cost and effectiveness and, in particular, feedback from stakeholders.

Downloads

Download the full Funders’ principles and drivers report.

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